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In today's competitive marketing environment, the need to attribute a return on investment has never been more important. Many public relations (PR) professionals, however, are hyperfocused on brand awareness.

Unfortunately, just focusing on brand awareness won't help prove ROI. Instead, PR pros need to focus on what really matters to clients: revenue.

For years, the primary key performance indicator (KPI) in PR has been the number of impressions. Publicists are often trained to focus solely on that metric as a measure of success. However, the "number of impressions" just doesn't cut it for young and aspiring marketing directors looking for direct ROI and diving into the data day in and day out.

So, many traditional PR agencies are missing the mark. To reflect the current expectations of big brands, you need to understand that brand awareness isn't going to get you anywhere unless you can tie your PR efforts back to ROI.

You may be asking yourself, "How do I put brand awareness on the back burner? What else should I be focusing on?"

1. SEO

When doing PR, you have to remember what channels are the most measurable. And anyone who knows anything about digital marketing knows that SEO is the king of measurable channels. Because of this, it only makes sense to partner up with SEO.

PR can play a huge role in the success of an SEO campaign by supporting the SEO team's efforts and acting as an assist to help increase keyword rankings, the overall health of the website, and brand recognition.

2. Measurable Metrics

Brand awareness can only get you so far. So, if you don't know how to report on the metrics you are finding, all your efforts may seem pointless (and irrelevant) to the client.

Now, don't get me wrong… Measuring traffic is important. But there are other metrics that are just as important—if not more important.

For example, when analyzing and measuring, make sure that you take into account your SEO keyword strategy. This entails ensuring that your anchor text is keyword-rich and your link targets are on a transactional (or converting) page. Keep an eye on a keyword you are plugging into an anchor text and ensure you are watching that specific keyword continue to rank higher and higher. As the keyword progresses, so does your value as a PR pro.

3. Resources

Google Analytics, which is often a traditional PR professional's worst nightmare, is your best friend. It allows you to dive deep into the data and target your research to understand the referral channel and your direct effect on traffic coming to the site. It also provides you with other metrics, such as bounce rate, pageviews, and most importantly, conversions coming from the referral channel alone.

Outside of Google Analytics, there are a handful of resources for pulling targeted media lists, understanding the health of different websites, and recognizing the relevancy of those sites to your brand.

4. Your clients' KPIs, not your own

It's important to identify and become familiar with clients' goals as opposed to your own campaign goals. That can be difficult at first and comes with a lot of practice and development of account management skills.

Once you understand your clients' KPIs, make sure that you never stray away from them throughout the entirety of your campaign. And during discussion time, always focus your talking points around your agreed upon KPIs. This ensures that everything remains consistent and helps you hold yourself accountable. It will also simplify the process in the long-run.

5. An integrated channel strategy in mind

Your digital marketing strategies are integrated as closely as possible. Your PR team should not be siloed from the rest of the marketing team. The PR department should be working hand in hand with the social team, strategizing contests and promotions, and elevating each others' strategies.

The PR and content teams should be in constant communication, ensuring PR is promoting the most valuable content at the right time and synchronizing pitch and article topics.

PR also needs to have a thorough understanding of CRO. Your PR team should know which pages are converting and make sure that those pages are being linked to in placements accordingly. Finally, the PR department should share any big wins with the Paid Social team so that they can promote it.

* * *

Publicists work extremely hard, but often with the wrong goal in mind. Keeping brand awareness (instead of conversions) top of mind leads to frustration and often results in the loss of the CMO's attention regarding PR's worth.

Therefore, make sure you are armed with a forward-thinking strategy and the right resources to prove results and maintain (or expand) your client base.

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image of Kate Lobel

Kate Lobel is public relations manager at Power Digital Marketing, an agency that helps companies understand digital marketing and realize the opportunity gaps online within their industry.

LinkedIn: Kate Lobel