Public relations professionals have two important roles: to protect the best interests of their client and to be a resource for the media, ensuring that their clients understand “the game” and can provide the appropriate experiences or materials for media that will generate meaningful coverage.
As recently as ten years ago, the vast majority of media professionals were employed by organizations that regulated the distinction between advertising (paid media) and public relations (earned media). These organizations also had systems in place to report metrics to the public, such as Nielsen ratings and other third-party sources that ensured that all circulation and viewership numbers were accurate and honest.
Today, blogs owned by individuals often complement traditional media as go-to sources for information, education and entertainment. Most blog metrics are self-reported and it is easy and inexpensive to purchase large numbers of Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram followers to increase a brand’s worth. As public relations professionals and representatives of our clients’ brands, we always use a variety of both qualitative and quantitative metrics to evaluate a client.
Recently I was approached by a blog that wanted to review a large volume of a client’s product and the blogger claimed that he had 300,000 unique monthly visitors. When I looked at the blog, it was clear that it was not updated regularly and did not appear to be professionally designed or maintained. I checked the statistics on Compete.com and it stated that the blog actually had less than 10,000 unique monthly visitors. I gently declined the opportunity, but the blogger pushed back and asked why. In my answer, I let him know that a third party site reported a vast discrepancy with his metrics. He told me that he had Google Analytics installed on his site and 175,000 unique monthly visitors, different from his initial quote. Nonetheless, there was a large discrepancy between his report and the third party report!
While his error may have been an honest one – and his statistics may well have fallen somewhere in between, it is important to use more than one method to qualify or quantify a blog or media outlet. Some of our favorites are qualitative and others are quantitative.
Unique Monthly Visitors: A lot of bloggers report their page views to brands and public relations companies, but the really important number is how many unique monthly visitors a blog receives. Page views are how many clicks the site gets, while unique visitors are how many individual people visited a specific site. It tells you how many people are reading versus how many times one person clicks on the site.
Google Analytics: When a blogger proactively reaches out to a brand or public relations company for a large volume of product or a sponsorship, there is nothing wrong with requesting that they provide information about their readership and how many fans/followers they have – including a screen shot to verify the data. Since this information is made public for traditional media, it’s understandable that companies would use similar protocol for bloggers.
Page Rank: Google page rank is one of the methods Google uses to determine a page’s relevance or importance. It is primarily based on how many back links a page has – or how many people are linking in to that page.
MozRank: The MozRank of a page is a statistic that represents a represents a link popularity score. It reflects the importance of any given web page on the Internet. Pages earn MozRank by the number and quality of other pages that link to them. The higher the quality of the links that link to your web site, the higher the MozRank will be.
Domain Authority: A site’s Domain Authority is a prediction of how well the site will perform in search engine rankings. It compares your site to others, tracking the “strength” of your website over the long term. This metric is calculated by combining all other metrics: total links, MozRank and more, into one score.
Social Media Followers: Not only is it important to quantify a person or publication’s social media followers, but it’s important to scan through the people following to ensure that they have the audience that they state.
Recently I came across a local blog in my city that I never heard of that had 75,000 Twitter followers. I was shocked that they had such a big following since I’m very dialed in to the local blogging community, so I flipped through to see whom their followers were. Instead of seeing familiar faces, I found pages greeted and pages of fake accounts – with no profile picture, names or bios, just long Greek/Arabic text that did not translate.
Spend some time on an outlet’s social networks before building a relationship. If they’re legit, they’ll appreciate that you took the time to get to know them.
Site Quality: Before any brand or public relations professional decides to forge ahead with any media relationship, it’s important to spend some time on the site to make sure the content is a fit for you. If I receive an email from a blogger who reviews products for pets, it’s probably not a fit for the baby blanket company I represent.
The bottom line: Do your research and be informed in order to generate meaningful coverage for your client and develop lasting relationships with traditional and new media alike.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.