Review: Unlocking the untapped business potential of online media coverage roundtable with Metricomm

Rachael Hesno's picture
by Rachael Hesno
Metricomm roundtable - online media coverage

Data-focused media evaluation firm Metricomm, in association with Prolific North, held a virtual roundtable event on 18th November to delve into the role online media coverage has on driving potential sales for a business.

During the hour-long event, Director of Metricomm Mark Westaby debated with industry professionals on the topic of how marketing teams and PR experts should be utilising online media coverage in a bid to amplify a brand and boost sales. 

He explored how the marketing and PR industry is still centred around the traditional metric of volume of media coverage and explained why it is time for the industry to move on. 

At the virtual roundtable, a number of industry leaders joined in on the topic to debate how the industry can tap into the business potential of online media coverage.


  • Mark Westaby, Director, Metricomm
  • Katrina Cliffe, Founder and Managing Director, Wild PR
  • Jane Carroll, Director, RoccStar PR
  • Julie Chadwick, Managing Partner, DentsuMB
  • David Prior, Chair of event and Prolific North Editor

A data driven approach

David Prior, Prolific North editor and chair of the event, kick-started the discussion by querying Mark Westaby on Metricomm’s data approach to utilising online media coverage towards driving sales for a business.

Westaby said that the industry is “fixated” on volume of coverage and needs to evolve. Metrics are “no longer of interest to the c-suite” he explained, adding that those at the top want to see bottom line activity.

Despite the emergence of technology such as AI, he noted the industry needs to move towards data solutions and utilise the tools available in order to drive business sales and steer away from the traditional metrics of volume.

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

Delving into one of Metricomm’s case studies on the audience impact from online media coverage on car brands, he pointed to the correlation between car sales and the audience generated by online media coverage for certain brands.

He explained online media coverage has an impact on sales and can be demonstrated if the “right data” is utilised - which is the audience that the online media coverage reaches and what Metricomm specialises in analysing.

Print media has little impact in terms of driving sales and audience behaviour. Whereas broadcast media, while it has an immediate impact, is still short-term as once a product or brand has been featured on an advert or programme it “decays quickly” once it ends.

“Online media coverage shifts the dial,” he said, as it “sits there” and is always accessible online. It has a strong impact when it is first published and “decays” over a longer period of time in comparison with other forms of media. 

Relationship between online media coverage, audience behaviour and sales

Metricomm supermarket sales analysis.
Supermarket sales are strongly related to Metricomm’s Audience Impact.

Metricomm’s analysis covers a range of sectors, with Westaby pointing to the data firm’s analysis revealing the relationship between online media coverage and supermarket sales. 

He explained that the PR industry is still reliant upon tracing the volume of coverage obtained as it is considered a simplistic metric to use. However utilising Metricomm’s Audience Impact data analysis, he said it assesses the number of people most likely to have found, read and reacted to online media coverage for different brands which he said is the key data to focus on.

The data-focused firm combines marketing activities with data from Google searches to sales in order to identify patterns. It then takes the data generated to produce an analysis of online media coverage, which can provide an insight into how a business can increase sales.  

In the instance of the supermarket sector, he said there is a strong relationship between audience impact and supermarket sales which reflects the similar findings the firm uncovered on car brand sales. The power of online media coverage through the funnel in generating sales has a greater impact than is recognised by the marketing and advertising industries.

The impact of online media coverage needs to be taken into account when the effectiveness of marketing activities are being tracked and measured, he explained. 

Audience behaviour and data can be used to demonstrate how online media coverage is linked to supermarket sales performance as he explained the audience generated by, rather than the volume of coverage, plays a vital role in driving potential sales.  

Using Tesco as an example, he said the supermarket came out of the pandemic “better than any other supermarket”. He attributes this to its share of audience impact on online media coverage, which shows a significant effect on supermarket sales and will have played a role in driving sales.  

Tesco - Metricomm
How online media coverage has helped Tesco outperform the grocery market.

Proving the effectiveness of coverage, privacy and cookies

Jane Carroll, director of RoccStar PR, asked Westaby whether the data is linked to direct sales from an article or from product placement online, questioning how it is measured.

Westaby said the industry is going through a “massive watershed with privacy” as cookies will disappear despite the pressure from the advertising industry.

Katrina Cliffe, Wild PR founder and managing director, explained that she runs a smaller agency and uses tools such as SEMRush and Google Analytics.

When it comes to online coverage and PR, she said the agency can pinpoint behaviour but is concerned about how smaller boutique PR agencies will be able to justify projects to clients if cookies start disappearing.

From Carroll’s (RoccStar PR) perspective, she said she has been in the industry for a long time and queried how the data shows online media coverage is driving sales and how it is not just a combination of multiple pieces of PR coverage driving audience behaviour ranging from TV, online, print and radio.

She said “we are still in an area where we can say this metric means this” as for instance, often a piece of coverage on a product being shown on a morning TV show may drive an uptick in sales or prompt it to sell out - but she is not able to say it is definitively down to that one piece of PR coverage. 

Julie Chadwick, Managing Partner at DentsuMB, said there needs to be business change and brand tracking needs to evolve as some clients do brand tracking quarterly. “We need to get to where there is daily affordable brand tracking,” with real-time data as well as tracking sales, she said.

In terms of data, Cliffe (Wild PR) said at Wild PR the agency looks at referral links back to a client website and keyword ranking improvements as typically smaller businesses may not record sales leads. 

On the issue of cookies, Carroll (RoccStar PR) said she is also worried if cookies disappear. On demonstrating audience impact versus sales, she explained she feels a client will still ask what it means.

Both Westaby and Chadwick (DentsuMB) explained it is useful taking a specific example to a client, focusing on the stories that landed in correlation to audience behaviour. “When you get down to granular detail it tells a clearer story,” Chadwick (DentsuMB) said.

Westaby added that a lot of the data being collected is not necessarily accurate as some users may utilise Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to avoid cookies so you are not able to track what they are doing.

He added that the PR industry has “got to get away from metrics which are misleading”. The PR industry does not pay online media coverage as much consideration as other forms of media coverage - mainly as no one has shown PRs the true impact it can have, he said.

“Data tells us you can amplify the effects by taking advantage of online media coverage if you have the right data to do that,” he said.

On PR evaluation, Carroll (RoccStar PR) said she often feels it is a constant battle to prove her worth but every company has a PR function. While she said she doesn’t feel unvalued, she feels she needs to show clients a very tangible result. 

As a former chair of media evaluation organisation AMEC, Westaby said he believes the evaluation industry has let PRs down as it hasn’t evolved from the traditional metrics and showcased the impact a data-driven approach can have on driving business sales. 

Concluding the discussion, he said he feels optimistic about the future as once data is available businesses can start to “build a picture of what is building results”. 

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