What is the real ROI from media coverage?
The early development stages of any company are generally characterized by skeleton teams, and tight budgets. Growing enterprises tend to dedicate all of their time and energy into expanding their client base and continually improving their product or service with the limited resources available to them.
Due to their limited budgets, many startups view PR as an expensive perk which is outside of their means. Extra cash is generally pumped into ‘more essential spends’ like advertising or new hires. Two common concerns that we hear from clients during our on-boarding process are “ are we ready for PR?” and “can we afford this at this time?”.
Having clear media goals for your campaign is extremely important. There are multiple benefits to gaining media coverage for your company, ranging from improving your social proof to increased traffic to your website. However, for companies who are on the fence about whether they can afford/need a PR campaign, more often than not, it comes down to the bottom line: “Will a PR campaign increase sales and push my company forward?”
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As a means of assessing the real return on investment for a successful media campaign we assessed our own analytics at Publicize. At this time Publicize was in it’s early stages. We only had seven employees and had not promoted much in the public domain.
So what is the real ROI from gaining media coverage?
In your early growth stages, every single new client counts, effectively opening up a new source of income which can then be pumped back into your business. However, to really see a spike in new clients, and a move past the ‘organic’ growth of personal references and local contacts, you need to put yourself in front of a wider audience.
The best way to do this, assuming that you don’t want to pump your precious funds into paid advertising, is to get your story picked up by a journalist from a leading publication. The most common path to this form of media coverage is by sending out regular press releases based upon newsworthy announcements from your company.
If you gain media coverage on a leading publication you should notice an increase in sales and revenues very quickly. Using Publicize as an example, we witnessed a 72% increase in sales in the 6 weeks following our coverage on TechCrunch, in comparison to the 6 weeks before the article went live. Between 06/01 to 07/13 (when the article by Anthony Ha was released on TC) Publicize earned $20,254.96. From 07/13 to 08/17 our sales jumped up dramatically to $35,037.98.
It is natural for your sales to spike in the weeks following an article on a leading publication, before leveling off. However, every new client you win during the spike period is yet another open door for recommendations and referrals, assuming you are the best at what you do, and demonstrate that your brand deserves its feature on a top tier publication.
In your early growth stages, it is extremely important to keep track of your metrics by harnessing the power of tools like Google Analytics. One of the most important factors to monitor is your levels of referral traffic from other sites. This is when someone clicks on a link of your website on another page or social media site, leading them to your homepage.
Referral traffic is a strong indicator of which external sources are most valuable in helping your business achieve its goals, and can help you assess the strength of your social media channels, and also decide which publications you should continue pitching to in the future. For example, if you are covered in a medium range tech blog, and see that the referral traffic is comparatively low in the following months, you might decide to hold off pitching to that blog in the future, instead targeting publications with a higher readership or pitching to industry specific publications.
In the month preceding Anthony Ha’s article on TC from 12/06/14 to 12/07/14 Publicize received 32.8 referrals on average per day. In the month following the article, from 07/13/14 to 08/13/14 we received on average 130.4 referrals per day. This accounts for a 297.5% increase in referrals from other sites. The main sites were Product Hunt and TechCrunch followed by Feld.com and Facebook.
Another key metric to keep an eye on is the amount of active users visiting your homepage, which is referred to as traffic. In the month preceding our TC article from 06/12/14 to 07/12/14 we saw 3230 active users visit our site, from 07/13/14 to 08/13/14 we had 4823 active users, a 50% increase in traffic.
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SEO experts argue that building a healthy content profile by keeping up a steady stream of guest articles, blogs and social media posts which link back to your website is vital to maintain a good SEO standing.
That said, Matt Cutts, the former head of the Google spam team has publicly lambasted ‘spammy’ guest bloggers, who flood the internet with poorly written, link heavy, paid blogs, warning that Google’s spam team will always find a way to block this type of content. With this is mind it is important to spend your time contributing content which imparts useful, actionable information to the wider conversation. Whether it be via a guest article in your own name, or via a press release picked up by a journalist who features your company in an article of their own, the SEO impact of being featured on a leading publication will be considerable.
Organic search is the primary driver of website traffic to business sites. After our first feature on TechCrunch, Publicize was ranked number one on Google searches for “Startup PR”, which increased our traffic dramatically, and brought a wave of potential new clients to our site.
Additional media results
Startup PR campaigns need to be constantly rolling to guarantee success, and just because you have been featured once, you shouldn’t become complacent and rest on your laurels.
Being featured on a leading site is a great result, but you should take advantage of the social proof offered by this feature, and share your article as much as possible via your community pages, and social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
The ideal outcome of being featured on a leading site, would be that other journalists and publications take interest in your company and the overall importance of your mission and values, and offer you further coverage in the future.
After being featured on TechCrunch, Publicize founder Conrad Egusa was soon approached by an Inc.com contributor, who went on to publish an article on 07/24/14 entitled 7 Things to Know Before Using a PR Startup or Agency.
However, being featured in an article is only one type of valuable media coverage. There are countless blogs and industry podcasts out there which also have huge following from around the world. In the months following our TC announcement, Publicize was also featured on WP Elevation (07/25/14), BKc (08/10/14), Sweetprocess.com (09/11/14) and the Business Growth Podcast (09/23/14).
Being featured on a podcast, written about in an article, or interviewed for a blog are all great ways to add to the social proof of yourself as a professional and also that of your company as a whole. The startup ecosystem is becoming cluttered with millions of new companies, with a range of weird and wonderful products and services emerging each year. Just making a website for your company is not enough, journalists and potential customers need to be able to find social proof for your name online which shows them that you are the real deal, and are worth spending time (and potentially money) on.
While we only used data points for the six weeks before and after the July 2014 TechCrunch article, the reality is that we enjoyed the increased traffic, sales and SEO benefits for nearly 12 months after it went live. However, while getting an article on a leading site like Techcrunch, Venturebeat or Entrepreneur is definitely cause for celebration, it is only the first step in the long and continually evolving path to success. Keeping ahead of the competition requires constant engagement with the media, and a steady flow of content to keep your ever expanding readership interested and engaged.
Your first article is like entry to a private members club. You have successfully made your way into a room full of A-players, but it’s up to you to take advantage of your new found success, because the tech world is extremely competitive. There will always be a queue of new startups just waiting to nudge their way in front of you. So put down the champagne flutes, gather your team around you, and get started on the next announcement, guest article or podcast which you want to release. And make sure there is a bottle chilling for the next big result!
Craig Corbett is a Senior Writer at Publicize
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