6 free tools for PR monitoring and evaluation

Earlier this year I provided a webinar for Arts Marketing Association members on how to evaluate PR campaigns. The goal was to provide in-house marketing and communications teams in arts organisations with the tools to allow them to go beyond the standard list of coverage links that makes up so many of the so-called ‘PR reports’ I’ve been provided with over the years.

As well as a quick foray into communications theory and the Barcelona Principles, it was really important to me to provide the group with actual, practical takeaways that they could implement straight away. And so I gathered six of my favourite – and free – tools that I use for PR monitoring and evaluation.

1. The AMEC Interactive Evaluation Framework

AMEC (the people who came up with the Barcelona Principles) have also created a planning tool that will help you select a broad range of metrics to measure and encourage you to think about the strategic goals behind your campaign. The purpose of the framework is to help you measure outcomes as well as outputs. Although it’s titled the ‘Evaluation Framework’, it’s a helpful planning tool as well. And for those who are new to working in this way, by hovering over each section you can read a helpful reminder about what it means and what sorts of things you should be inputting.

Link: https://amecorg.com/amecframework/framework/interactive-framework/

2. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is probably the most basic place to start when it comes to finding data that shows some of the outcomes from your digital campaigns. There are lots of training courses available (including ones run by the CIPR and the AMA, but a good place to start is by looking at your referral traffic and noting if any of your key targeted press titles appear there.

The next step is to set up Google Goals for the actions you want your audiences to carry out. GA basically analyses your web traffic not the quality of the relationships you’re building, but if you set a goal, for instance, to keep people on your blog reading articles about your cast and their backstage shenanigans for longer you could then measure that. 

You can also use trackable links to know exactly what social channels and content are causing people to click through to your website. The easiest way to do this is through Google Campaign URL Builder, although lots of platforms like Bitly or social scheduling tools also have it built-in – you want to look for something tagged ‘UTM tracking info’. In there you can add your campaign source – eg the specific place it comes from like Twitter or your newsletter, the medium (how it gets there) so that would be ‘social’ or ‘email’, and the campaign name. There’s also a box on the URL builder where you can be really specific about what the content was eg was it a Wavve graphic of your latest podcast or a behind-the-scenes still from recording? This is a really useful way to know what works for the future.

The problem with Google Analytics is cookies. It used to be that browsers would automatically send a tracking cookie to the server with lots of useful information. But as people (rightly) get more concerned about privacy these have become problematic. It started with the GDPR agreement buttons that we’re all forever clicking, and now Apple, Google etc are phasing out these third party cookies altogether. They have said they’re looking at alternatives for marketers, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the tech blogs, but you need a backup – use Bitly (see below) or native social media tools to verify your data.

Link: https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/

3. Audience insight tools

We’re really blessed in the arts to have good insight into our audiences – so use it! I highly recommend bo the Audience Agency’s Audience Finder and Morris Hargreaves Macintyre’s Culture Segments.

Once you’ve identified your audience segment you can tally campaign activity to what we know that audience particularly likes.

But don’t stop there! There are also lots of tools that provide insight into what audiences who talk about things on social media like. One of my favourites is SparkToro, which I use in planning to identify the people, websites, and publications that influence my target audiences, and then when I’m reporting back I can again see how they tally up. They have various levels of accounts from free to paid, and they do free trials – it’s really fun to play with. 

4. Media monitoring tools

There are plenty of paid-for services to help monitor your press coverage, however unless you have really huge budgets very few will give you the context and analysis that will help you really understand the impact of the coverage. If you’re a small organisation with little to no budget, Google Alerts will provide you with most of the cuttings you need for free, while social listening tools are another way to pick up coverage – outlets will often tag you in pieces in the hope that you’ll share. Do be aware of the strict (and sometimes confusing) rules put in place by the NLA when it comes to sharing coverage though.

5. Google Trends

Link clicks are all well and good, but in the real world we know that most people will read or watch a story, think about it for a while, maybe chat about it with a friend and then think ‘hmm, I’m going to look into that further – I’ll Google it.’ Google Trends can help you see if traffic for your related terms has risen, and while you can’t show direct correlation it will give you a good hint that you’ve succeeded in raising awareness. You can also see related queries, so it might even spark some inspiration for future content.

Link: https://trends.google.com/trends/

6. Bit.ly

More than just a link shortening tool, this is in your arsenal for better understanding your web traffic after recent changes to third party cookies mean the data you get from Google Analytics may not be an accurate reflection of your users.

Bitly can also include campaign parameters for UTM links – although if you want to differentiate campaign content you’ll still need to use Google Campaign URL Builder which integrates with Bitly so long as you’re signed in.

Link: https://app.bitly.com/

What do you think of the list? Are there free tools missing that you love? Let me know in the comments – sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s