Marketing Tools: Has AirPR cracked the code on measuring the results of PR?

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AirPR is a startup that makes software solutions for the communications industry, and with its latest product, it claims to have the answer to the ever elusive question of “how much ROI is my PR giving me?”

What it is:

The product, called AirPR Analyst, is effectively an analytics dashboard for marketers that crawls the web to gather the results of a firm's PR work in a specific time period. This includes articles mentioning the company in the mainstream press and blogs, social media, owned content and commenting activity. The dashboard can then generate instant reports on the data using a variety of visualizations and metrics that help score how effective a PR campaign is.

“From a purely data-driven standpoint, it's nearly impossible to know what is and isn't working with regard to PR efforts, specifically in the digital media realm,” says AirPR co-founder and CEO, Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer. “AirPR Analyst provides standardized metrics to show companies how they measure up to industry competitors while enabling them to customize metrics important to their brand that can be tracked to specific business outcomes and analyzed for future campaigns.”

How it works:

Here's a look at the dashboard interface, which represents the brand's media/online presence as a graph. The spikes show when a cluster of articles or media mentions occur. Users can drill down to see the individual articles, the social media amplification generated by them, and the number of visitors who read them. It isn't all simply about presence however, the dashboard has metrics on “tone” to evaluate how positive or negative the mentions of the brand are in the media.

 

The software can also track conversions of readers to people who actually buy or use the service of the client brand, generating a revenue number that gives a concrete return-on-investment for PR activity. While this is a handy tool to have when it comes to seeing which media outlets generate the most revenue for their articles on the brand, sales tracking is limited only to media mentions, not crisis controls or PR events.

What is valuable however, is a metric that shows brands which one of their messages or soundbites is getting the most traction. If there's a particular slogan, product message or an executive quote that is getting picked up more than others on both social and mainstream media, the software highlights it. Brands can then double-down on that message for even more traction, better organic search results, and more effective pitching to journalists.

Clients and Pricing:

Analyst's price ranges from $1000 to $100,000, depending on how many products the client uses it for. Early clients include motion sensing technology company LeapMotion, as well as the New York Stock Exchange.

Challenges and limitations:

Fouladgar-Mercer says the biggest challenge in selling the product is overcoming people's skepticism of effective PR measurement. “People say it's impossible to do, and it isn't until we show them how we do it that they say ‘Wow, I hadn't thought of that,'” says Fouladgar-Mercer. “It's understandable because there just hasn't been a lot of tech people who solve problems for the PR industry.”

Attaching a dollar amount on PR activity has long been the Holy Grail for the industry, and while AirPR Analyst does go some way in solving part of that problem, there are still a lot of valuable marketing activities it can't measure. Event marketing is one of them, and attaching a dollar value to social marketing is always tricky in terms of sales. The real value of Analyst lies in the ease with which marketers and communications pros can generate reports to showcase the results of a campaign, or to make a case for increased spending in a particular activty. While the product is being targeted at CMOs as an analytics tool, ultimately Fouladgar-Mercer says its goal is for PR pros to improve themselves. “This product is not about showing who is the best in the world at PR,” says Fouladgar-Mercer. “It's about what is the most effective use of time, budget and creative resources for PR professionals.”

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