PRs face challenge for clients to open up website performance data

While many PR clients have opened up their website performance data to their agencies, many PRs still struggle to gain access to data which they overwhelmingly agree would help them create more effective campaigns.

The agency-client dynamic has always fascinated me. They always work best when the external PR agency is seen as part of the same team rather than purely an outside contractor. Trust is a key element to a healthy agency-client relationship – and that extends to sharing company data which may be perceived by some as sensitive, such as website performance data.

Being competent at Web analytics data, such as Google Analytics, should be a core PR competency as the information it holds it critical in showing how campaigns are performing post-coverage with target audiences. It tells us what sites they’re being referred from, which keywords they’re using to find the site and what they do when they get there. Yet many firms are still not sharing critical website performance data with their PR teams, according to a quick questionnaire I ran with 50 senior UK tech PR professionals.

Minority report

Exactly half of respondents affirmed that the “minority” of their client base does indeed share their website performance data with them, with just under a third (28 per cent) saying that the “majority” of clients did. A fifth of respondents still do not have access to any of their clients’ website performance data.

Unsurprisingly, 100 per cent of respondents believe that clients should share website performance data but only a third (34 per cent) currently have a policy in place asking for clients to share this data as standard.

Why sharing matters

Measurement has always been the bugbear when it comes to PR evaluation yet the web offers so much useful and relevant data that it’s silly to let this go to waste. According to the senior PR pros I consulted, most (90 per cent) were interested in factoring those results into campaign measurement, while 80 per cent wanted access to data in order to understand how content was performing and which tactics were most impactful. Lower down (58 per cent) was interest in honing media targeting through web data.

Written feedback was really interesting. People talked about adding meaning and context to campaigns, the ability to integrate with wider sales and marketing teams, help in optimising content for search marketing reasons, for example.

Sometimes it’s a “security” issue as the reason some clients won’t share, but one of the issues could also be cultural. As discussed in my recent post on SEO and PR skills, clients aren’t necessarily asking their PR teams for anything digital beyond social media support – and certainly very few ask for SEO services (yet) – so is it a case of in-house PR heads not feeling sharing website data is of relevance? Because any senior PR, whether in-house or agency side, knows how to interpret Google Analytics, right? Right?

Measure what matters

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced they do. So it’s key that all parties clue up as soon as possible if they want to enjoy a more competitive edge. The key thing it to measure what matters. As Google’s “Digital Marketing Evangelist” Avinash Kaushik says, “hits” should stand for “how idiots track success”. Marketers and PRs need to set those objectives and key performance indicators up at the start of the campaign and measure performance across all channels they’re operating on.

The client website is, of course, a brand’s shop window and sometimes a major storefront too, if eCommerce is involved. Understanding analytics is crucial for all PRs and sharing information and building reports around them can only help campaigns in the long run. What’s your experience been?

Chris Lee is the MD of Planet Content.

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