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Metricomm on how the PR industry is “missing out” on sales


The directors of data-focused media evaluation start-up Metricomm have suggested that the PR industry is losing out on potential sales, and evolution is needed to reap the benefits of online media coverage. 

Mark Westaby and Karen Williams are the directors of the company, launched in 2020, as a spin-out from Chester-based agency Tribe Communications.

The idea for the company began after the pair, who initially met as PR founder and client when he owned the Portfolio Group, met for a coffee.

Drawing on their decades of experience within the PR industry, they shared a plan to evolve media evaluation and “make it fit for purpose in the digital world.”

Metricomm works with business leaders, marketing and PR teams, and uses data to showcase how online media coverage can have an impact on audience behaviour, and sales.

“We discovered that the power of online media coverage is far greater than people realise,” Westaby told Prolific North, “it has an enormous reach.”

The pair are seeking to “step in” with the firm to encourage the PR industry to evolve due to the shared belief that “PR evaluation has lost its way.”

He said the PR industry is “wedded” to traditional metrics including the volume of coverage, but it should be instead aiming to understand the impact that coverage has on audience behaviour, and sales. 

“What we’re doing is helping businesses understand the impact of online media coverage,” Westaby explained, because “the PR industry is missing out on a lot of sales,” he said.

The firm is urging PR teams to shift into “the 21st century” to understand the impact PR executives can have in driving sales for a business, if online media coverage is utilised.

Metricomm’s data approach

The firm’s technology was built by Westaby, with his background as an engineering graduate and love of data.

The company has developed an algorithm, based on academic research, to calculate the probability an audience will engage, and take action, as a result of viewing online media coverage.

The algorithm takes into account how an audience may behave when it sees content in a Google search position, and how likely the content is engaging enough for them to read to the end.

In Metricomm’s analysis, it integrates data from an organisation’s marketing activities and combines it with data ranging from Google search to sales, in order to identify any patterns. 

“We take the data that we generate and we use big data analysis,” explained Westaby.

“When you add that up through all the online media coverage that an organisation gets, you end up with very powerful insight and information that you can then use to feedback in to increase your sales.”

“The industry has enormous potential because we know the business results it can generate,” he added.

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Metricomm directors - Pictured, left: Mark Westaby. Pictured, right: Karen Williams.
Metricomm directors Mark Westaby (pictured, left) and Karen Williams (pictured, right).

The impact of online coverage on business sales

Pointing to research Westaby and the firm has conducted, he suggests that business could be missing out on “billions of pounds” of consumer spending.

In his analysis, between 8-12% of purchases are directly affected by online media coverage, and potentially PR. 

As retail accounts for around one third of consumer spending according to Retail Economics, he said up to £144bn of sales could be influenced by online media coverage.

“Businesses are missing out on potential sales because their PR approach is still very hit and miss,” added Williams.

With a data driven approach, Williams claimed the firm is able to demonstrate how online media coverage is playing a “measurable role” in contributing to sales for a business. 

“Searches really help to drive consumers along the path to purchase.”

“What we’re seeing is that online media coverage is playing a measurable role in moving people down that path effectively, and contributing to sales for the business,” she said.

She said there is a demonstrable connection between online media coverage and business success, “if more people took the time to examine that and to look at that on a regular basis.”

This is why the company has come up with a method of calculating the size of an “engaged audience” to showcase how online coverage can have an impact on business outcomes.

The firm has produced reports on brands to demonstrate how online media coverage has an impact on sales. This has previously included analysis of major car brands and supermarkets. 

Metricomm analysis on car brands.
Metricomm analysis on share of sales vs engaged audience from online media coverage for car brands: annual average for 2014 to 2021.

“It is being able to shine a spotlight and to drill down” into the data, to help businesses and PR teams to understand where it needs to shift its focus to drive sales, said Williams.

Despite this, “the industry is very resistant to change,” Westaby explained, “there is almost a fear of knowing.” 

To tackle this, business leaders should be asking questions on why money is being spent on PR and the results it is delivering, said Williams.

“I think it is incumbent on people at the top of organisations to ask the right questions,” she said.

Within the next few weeks, Metricomm is planning to launch a new service for businesses to analyse the effectiveness of online media coverage. 

They explained if the firm is unable to provide the evidence, businesses won’t have to pay for the service.

The pair are also hoping to develop a case study to show examples of how online media coverage is not working for organisations “in the way that they think it is”.

“If you can get your arm around what’s happening as a consequence of that online media coverage then you get a really strong understanding of what’s driving consumer behaviour,” said Williams.

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