Expert advice on analysing PR impact (properly)

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It’s one of the questions we get asked by clients the most. Just how much is that press coverage really worth when it comes to sales conversions and cementing a brand name in the public’s conscious?
The latest National Readership Survey (NRS) figures for UK newspapers have just been released, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to tackle the issue head on. You can take a look at the full breakdown here, which takes into account both print and digital audiences to give an idea of overall reach.
There’s a problem with all readership figures, though, from the NRS to Audit Bureau of Circulation’s method of amassing data. Whilst these services are vital when it comes to ascertaining the overall number of people using a website or buying a physical publication, they do not give any insight into the success- or failure- of individual sections therein, or more importantly particular pages.
So, whilst Daily Mail and Mail Online continue to consolidate their position as the most read titles overall, we’re still left guessing as to the true impact of each article on the website. Similarly, older companies remain largely focussed on achieving hits in print, devaluing the power of online and potentially missing out on key specialist audiences that could prove much more effective targets than more general readers.
To use Daily Mail as an example again, print readers differ massively in terms of demographics when compared with their younger Mail Online counterparts. This means a travel feature on Ibiza would be a misfire for the paper, but potentially very powerful online, highlighting the importance of understanding exact audiences in order for your PR to do its job properly, and deliver real value for money. A point that is arguably even more pronounced when it comes to business titles or companies aiming at niche interest groups.
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“In the media it’s almost impossible to hide behind the numbers anymore. Professionals can get a genuine run down of who is actually reading what, with article level readership figures now available for national newspaper websites,??? explains Steph Bridgeman, media insight specialist, who heads up a team of Experienced Media Analysts.
“This means that if you have two hits in stories on two different sites, you can pay money to the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) and they will give you the actual readership at an article level. This allows you to really get the gist of who actually saw it.
“Added to this, we have the ability to check out referral traffic in Google Analytics, meaning that if you secure a link in your coverage, you can pinpoint the level of traffic that the link brings to your client’s site or other digital property.
“So whilst people get excited about national coverage they may get, actually the piece that has appeared in the local Lancashire business title, or wherever, will likely lead to more sales /impact overall. I think with digital now it’s about getting that level of feedback on the benefits of coverage.
“If you have good relationships with publishers, who obviously know a huge amount about their readership, then you can perhaps get access to those statistics, and realise that just because a website readership is in the millions doesn’t mean you have millions reading each story. PR has a lot to do with that understanding, too- the experts will have a good knowledge of titles, and which titles are the most important for their individual clients.???
Steph recommends the following tools in order to gain a better understanding of the genuine readership for major media titles in the UK: 
Coveragebook.com, whose readership data builds in the fact that not everybody reads every piece of content on a news site, also TGI audience / planning data.  The data you get from media monitoring agencies are generally strong for print titles, but challenge the online audience data from these sources – if the number is really big, it is likely showing an ‘all site’ figure, possibly based on a month’s worth of audience rather than a daily readership figure which would be closer to your article level readership.