For Impact, Look Beyond Simple Awareness When Campaigning High in the Funnel
PR and corporate communications teams have a unique job when compared to other marketing teams. They are responsible for creating and maintaining a positive image of their brand in the public eye, as well as generating awareness and interest among potential customers. However, measuring the effectiveness of their efforts can be challenging, as they often operate "above the funnel", meaning they target people who are not yet ready to buy or even consider their products or services.
"Above the Funnel" and "Top of the Funnel" programs aim to build trust, credibility, and recognition for a brand among a broad audience. They use various channels such as media relations, influencer marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, etc. to reach people who may not be aware of their brand or what it offers. The goal is to create a favorable impression and spark curiosity that will eventually lead them down the funnel.
There are several ways to measure awareness and interest for PR and corporate communications campaigns. Some are direct—these are the traditional response metrics that show how people directly interact with your content or messages. But others are indirect—they show how your content or messages have influenced the way people think about your brand and products. This mindshare aspect of measurement is often overlooked and undervalued. Mindshare can also be a strong indicator of “interest” that does beyond simple awareness. I would argue that generating awareness leading to interest should be the true objective of these above the funnel activities.
Direct Ways to Measure Awareness
The most well understood and practiced way to measure impact is direct measurement. Direct ways to measure awareness and interest are those that show how many people have been exposed to your brand name, logo, slogan, message, story, etc., as well as how many people have clicked on your links, visited your website, followed your social media accounts, etc. Some examples of direct ways to measure awareness and interest are:
Impressions: This metric measures how many times your content or message has been displayed on a screen or device. It shows how much potential reach you have with your audience.
Reach: This metric measures how many unique people have seen your content or message at least once. It shows how much actual reach you have with your audience.
Click-through rate (CTR): This metric measures how many people click on your ads, links, or social media posts after seeing them. It shows how much interest you generate with your audience.
Website visits: This metric measures how many people visit your website after seeing your content or message. It shows how much traffic you drive to your website.
Social engagement: This metric measures how many people like, comment, share, mention ,or tag your brand on social media platforms. It shows how much engagement you create with your audience.
Basically, it is all the immediate interaction that happen up to the point of visiting the target property. These are very common. However, they often have limited value and are often called “vanity metrics” for that reason. Knowing how many impressions were served is great, but what does that really get you on its own?
Measure Awareness Leading to Interest by Looking for "Echos"
Indirect measures can help to fill in a more complete picture of what impression your impressions made on the audience. Indirect ways to measure awareness and interest are those that show how your content or message has influenced other aspects of your brand performance or reputation in ways that seek to expose a shift in mindset over a large population.
These indirect indicators often can be likened to “echoes” that reverberate from your marketing and comms campaigns. Listening for echoes can yield important insights that would not be otherwise available. Some examples of indirect ways to measure awareness and interest are:
Social follower growth: This metric measures how many new followers you gain on social media platforms over time. Fan growth can contribute to your overall “opt-in” audience.
Organic search trends: This metric measures how popular certain keywords related to your industry. This is relevant for both brand phrases and topical phrases.
Influencer engagement: This metric measures how many influencers mention, tag, or endorse your brand on their platforms. Influencers are not limited to celebrities. Critically important are micro-influencers and industry voices who may not have wide public appeal but are a trusted voice to your specific target audience.
Brand sentiment: This metric measures how positive or negative people feel about your brand based on their online comments and reviews. A combination of algorithmic and human reviews works well here to sure accuracy and context.
Competitive comparisons: This metric measures how your brand performs compared to your competitors in terms of awareness, interest, and other aspects. This becomes more important if the campaign is focused on features of the product with a differentiation imperative.
Product mentions: This metric measures how often people talk about your products or features on blogs, forums, podcasts, or other online channels.
Customer service calls: This metric measures how many calls were received by customer service call centers or sales reps in a particular time period. Increases here can be positive or negative depending on the nature of the calls, so a categorization and scoring aspect must be setup in advance.
In all of these ways, we look for indicators that your message has gone beyond awareness and inspired actual interest by the target audience. This is far short of engagement or conversion, but it is an important first step to building relevance and consideration. Without these “echos” you risk having big gaps in your understanding of the effectiveness and impact of your above the funnel campaigns.
Example Matrix of Awareness and Interest Campaigns with Direct and Indirect Metrics
To help you plan and measure your PR and corporate communications campaigns more effectively, here is an example matrix of awareness and interest campaigns with direct and indirect metrics:
Example Direct Measures
Possible Indirect Measures
To increase brand awareness among a relevant audience by getting featured in reputable publications
Impressions , reach, placements
Brand search volume , organic search trends , competitive comparisons
To increase brand interest among a niche audience by collaborating with influential creators who share your values
Social engagement, direct comment sentiment, website visits, time on page
Social follower growth , other influencer engagement, 3rd party product mentions, earned media value
To increase brand trust and credibility among a curious audience by providing valuable information that solves their problems
Website visits, time on page, CTR, content sharing, email sign ups
Brand sentiment , product mentions , organic search trends, links from other websites
Social Media Marketing
To increase brand engagement and loyalty among an active audience by creating entertaining and interactive content that sparks conversations
Social engagement, follower growth
influencer engagement , brand sentiment, customer service calls
Include Direct and Indirect in your Measurement Strategy
In order to put this thinking into practice, PR professionals can start by identifying the specific goals of each campaign and determining which metrics will best measure success. Building these into the Measurement Strategy for your program is the best way to work through these ideas and gain alignment with other stakeholders. This discussion and alignment phase of any measurement program is critical for long term success of the analytics effort.
In summary, PR and corporate communications teams have a unique role in building brand awareness and interest. While direct measures of awareness, such as impressions and reach are important, it’s also important to consider indirect measures of interest to gain a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of an above the funnel campaign. By tracking a variety of metrics and using data-driven insights, comms teams can create more effective campaigns and drive long-term brand loyalty and illuminate mindshare.