As the way we consume media changes, so too do the platforms and thus, so must the way we measure the success of a PR campaign as we try to prove the ROI of whatever activity it is we are undertaking.
Blogs provide a useful conversation channel for brands to communicate with their audience which means that many marketing managers ask that their hired PR agency engages with bloggers to get their messages and product across.
Engagement is my favourite bit of this job. I love it. There is nothing more satisfying than striking up a conversation with someone you’ve never met and being able to give them something that means they can pull together a blog post that they know will give their readers a really good experience.
How then, can we justify the time, money and results of blogger outreach to a client?
You cannot put a single figure on the relevance/importance/size/influence of a blog. In essence, you cannot rate a blog, you cannot give it a score. It is folly to try and do so as we are trying to introduce a faux figure to an already flawed way of measuring success: the Ad Value Equivalent.
The AVE is an old PR myth started by someone, somewhere, to prove the value of PR against advertising. It is essentially any number between 2 and 3, multiplied by the physical size of the coverage: so if a newspaper publishes a feature which measures 10cm x 10cm and has assigned an advertising rate to that space, you times that by your ficticious number and that gives you an AVE.
The challenge we have in the digital sphere is that this number does not work. It does not work because you can’t tell how many eyeballs will have landed on the blog post mentioning your client, and because there are very rarely advertising rates on blogs.
So there are several different things you can consider when attempting to show the worth of your outreach. You can try and pull in numbers from data sources such as Technorati (broken), Yahoo (inaccurate) or Alexa (doesn’t meaure the size of a blog unless it has been pre-registered) to demonstrate the blog’s size/authority/influence etc.
This is applying a 20th century model to a 21st century problem.
We need to establish what we are measuring – is it the blog’s size, engagement or influence? Are you aiming to find the most influential blog overall or within a particular niche?
Again, to get a number, why not look at physical measurable inbound links using Google blog search, the amount of comments per post the blog usually gets, the number of retweets it gets, the frequency of posts.
Then why not put these into a mix which includes your client’s inputs, key messages, images, quotes or outbound links.
Then you can get an idea of what the relevance of a blog is – it must be relative to other blogs in its niche. You could apply an Adage 150-esque methodolgy to rank them in order of significance.
What’s great is that this is not an exact science – just like measuring the impace of a conversation. What value can you place on a conversation in Sainsbury’s with an assistant when you can’t find the cookies? You’ll spend £1 on the cookies so you’re at a loss, but then you get to east the cookies, what’s the value of that? You’ll feel happy – rate that on a scale of 1-10. How would you do that? By comparing it against another time you felt happy.
I may have rambled a touch, so please feel free to chip in with your thoughts, but to answer the original question: you cannot “measure” a blog with a fixed figure. But what you can judge is it’s place relative to other blogs within its niche.
UPDATE: I should point out that I chose a particularly incendiary post title on purpose to try and put into perspective the proposterousness of the situation we find ourselves in :-)