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Effective PR Isn't About Eyeballs - It's About Engagement

As a regular rider of commuter trains into and out of Chicago’s Union Station, I regularly observe all sorts of boots-on-the-ground PR tactics as companies (and politicians) attempt to mine the streams of workers tramping in and out of the train station daily. In all the years I’ve observed teams of earnest young people dressed in some form of uniform or costume handing out stickers, buttons, lip gloss and samples to hurried commuters, only one was ever relevant to my needs (indeed, my husband already used the product, so the sample was happily accepted and stuck into his travel kit.) Arguably, a lot of companies spent considerable time, energy and resources pitching me on things like bus travel to downstate Illinois, children’s products, Weiss beer and dog food. Incidentally, though I’ve lived in Chicago for almost 20 years, I’ve not had occasion to travel downstate, I have no kids, I loathe Weiss beer (though ales and stouts are acceptable!) and I have two cats. The point of all this is that these publicity efforts failed to establish a relevant connection with me simply because I had zero interest in what was being promoted.

The good news for the PR industry today is that it’s much easier to find networks of people who are interested in your message and, even better, it’s easier for those networks to find your message. Search engines effectively pull interested parties to your messages and if you’re lucky (or really good) bloggers will re-publish it to their audience and it will acquire a life of its own in social networks. This is Web 2.0 at work and these technologies enable savvy communicators to engage their audiences, rather than simply gaining visibility for a message.

Engagement occurs when the recipient of a message – whether that message is a news release, a video, a blog post or a news article – takes an additional step after consuming the content. In the context of a news release, this action may be clicking on one of the hyperlinks within the release itself and visiting the issuing company’s Web site. Alternatively, the reader might print a copy of the release, bookmark it on a site like Digg or Del.icio.us, blog about it, e-mail it or otherwise share it with their networks. All of these activities indicate that the reader’s level of interest was enhanced by the content, inspiring them to take another step.

PR Newswire recently debuted a new suite of Visibility Reports designed to quantify the results generated by each news release. In addition to revealing the number of times a release was seen online, the keywords used to find the release in search engines and the number of credentialed media and bloggers who viewed the release on PR Newswire for Journalists, the Visibility Reports also offer an Engagement Index that reveals the extent to which your audience engaged with your message.

The Engagement Index measures interactions with your news release – namely, the number of times your readers did something with it beyond simply clicking on the headline and reading the story. The number of times the release was shared, printed, bookmarked and blogged are all recorded. These results are then compared to other releases within your industry. In addition to understanding which releases your audience found most interesting and valuable, you’ll also be able to see how your messages measure up to others in the industry. Taken collectively, these details can help you fine-tune future campaigns by understanding which topics and keywords resonate with your online constituents, thus driving your Engagement Index scores (and therefore, your total results) upward.

To learn more about PR Newswire's Visibility Reports and our distribution services, please e-mail us at information@prnewswire.com.

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