PR and communications aren’t being used enough to drive business outcomes and the bottom line, says Metricomm, the media evaluation company showing brands how impactful online media coverage really is.
Metricomm, a spin-out of Cheshire-based Tribe Communications, draws on big data and powerful statistical techniques to analyse the true power of PR, elevating it “by showing exactly how it drives organisational results,” it says.
According to its research, it turns out that – for driving consumer behaviours like search – “online media coverage is far more effective than advertising,” Mark Westaby, Director of Metricomm, told Prolific North.
“The amplification effect online media coverage can have on other marketing and advertising is huge.”
The company has also announced its intention to make its innovative and big data-powered media evaluation solution available to professionals on a SaaS basis in due course, giving PR departments the chance to prove how impactful their work really is to company fortunes.
Reputation, coverage and effectiveness
Until now, PR has focused very much on reputation and measurement has been inadequate – relying only on volume of coverage – leading brands to devalue their perception of it.
Metricomm’s research has shown, however, just how impactful it is on both consideration of products and ultimate sales. “The Holy Grail of PR measurement is understanding how effective it is. We can now do that, we do do that, and we do it very well.
“Because PR measurement has been so poor, marketing people and senior management have rather dismissed its effect,” said Westaby, who himself founded media evaluation firm Metrica nearly 30 years ago – which encompasses broadcast, print, online, social and consumer generated media.
Ultimately, Metrica was sold to Durrants, and now underpins Cision’s global measurement system – so his media evaluation heritage is strong.
Metricomm says there’s a “very strong correlation” between online media coverage and actual sales
Speaking alongside him, fellow Metricomm Director Karen Williams said marketing professionals and decision makers “need to look much more at what the impact is on the consumer,” going beyond the existing PR measurement tactics of simply quantifying the volume of coverage.
This is Metricomm’s strength, identifying – using statistical analysis and its specialist algorithm – how media coverage truly generates a real response with no guesswork. “We’ve been quite pioneering,” said Williams.
For Westaby, it’s “incredibly powerful”. Metricomm is able to take the online coverage that’s appeared about a brand or topic, look at audience data, put these together and tell clients – it works with both leading brands and agencies – with near-certainty whether the reason behind Google Search trends for them at that time is down to their online media coverage.
“We can see this effect at the top of the funnel, through consideration, right through to actual sales,” he said.
“We’ve demonstrated very clearly that there’s a very strong correlation between online media coverage and not only Google Search but actual sales.
“PR… has focused far too much on [asking] ‘how much volume of coverage have we generated?’,” Westaby added. “What it has to start saying and focusing on is ‘what audience are we going to reach, and how are they going to react as a result?’”
Metricomm’s growth and future plans
Still operating very much as a start-up having been founded in 2020, Metricomm has recently been made a member of the exclusive Future Club, part of Sci-Tech Daresbury. This programme provides early access to the innovation campus’s business growth mechanisms, partnerships and networks.
While Metricomm already has access to tech specialists, there will be even more technology support provided as part of it, as well as access to the investment community, which forms an important part of Metricomm’s future – as it looks to make its powerful toolkit available for widespread use by PR and marketing professionals.
They want to make what they do now accessible to everyone, he said. “Marketing departments, then, not just PR departments, would be able to use this and integrate the data that comes out of this in things like Market Mixed Models.”
Currently, its system is partially automated and handled by the small Metricomm team – who write reports and update clients – but they are moving towards launching a SaaS model for their solution, Williams confirmed, one “where we can hand over control to the user, so they can look at it through a dashboard and get the data and reports themselves.
Reputation has rarely been more important in influencing consumer choice. Here, Metricomm identifies how online media coverage is closely linked to performance.
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“I would just want people to give it a go, put it side-by-side with their existing media evaluation reports, and see whether it gives them anything of value,” she added.
“We have total confidence that for most businesses they will get something out of it.”
The technology, which can demonstrate the influence of a PR department’s work on driving awareness, consideration and sales, will be made available to people on a day-to-day basis. Through this, they can internally make the case for PR, as well as significantly better-informed decisions about their advertising, marketing and PR activities.
What internal departments will be able to see, as Metricomm has found through its own analysis, is that “the vast majority of the actual business results are generated by a remarkably small subsection of the coverage,” said Westaby.
Recommendations for PRs
According to the Metricomm leadership, brands should be using this kind of information as a key part of their marketing strategy. As Westaby said: “PR and communications people tend to focus more on reputation – which is very important – but focus less on what it is that online media coverage can achieve in terms of driving real business outcomes.”
Williams also emphasised that companies should remember that the benefits of digital on their fortunes shouldn’t be overstated just because they’re easily measured, though the channel is of course important.
She said: “I feel marketing departments have moved too far in that direction and abandoned a lot of traditional techniques just because they weren’t glamorous or sexy any more – [while] actually they do still work.”
Having previously worked as a brand-side Marketing Director, Williams pointed to the fact that brands currently spend a huge amount on digital advertising and SEO to drive traffic to their sites. “What people sitting in the seat I used to occupy probably don’t realise is just how much PR is contributing to that – and how to track, to the level of the publication and article, what it is that’s contributing to that demand generation,” she said.
Westaby added that there is a “massive potential” for CMOs in what Metricomm has to offer. “They could really see an uplift in the results they’re able to generate by looking at the data we’re able to produce. A lot of CMOs don’t even know that this is possible.”
Both he and Williams are certain things have changed radically in the past few years. Strategies that worked three years ago may not today, said Westaby, and information is now of equal if not greater importance than experience. “The world has changed completely and is continuing to even more dramatically.”
It means an understanding of consumer behaviour via big data is more important than ever – no longer can people rely on thinking about historical trends to predict how consumers will behave, as changes happen so rapidly and drastically.
He said: “If you’re not careful as a brand, you can find yourself spending a lot of money going in a direction that meets some theoretical purpose, but in reality will do very little in terms of helping to change people’s behaviour.”
“If you just measure volume, you’re assuming that everything is having the same effect.” This has a potentially disastrous knock-on impact when important decisions are made on false data, if equal influence is presumed.