5 minute read

Inside Innovation: Smoking Gun PR’s innovative approach to PR measurement

How refusing to offer AVE’s led to two global AMEC awards and very happy clients

On May 17th, 2017 AMEC announced the winners for their International Communication Effectiveness awards. The award winners are all leading the way in modern PR measurement but when we saw that Smoking Gun PR from Manchester, UK won two awards we had to get in touch and find out their secrets.

We’ve been lucky enough to catch up with busy Managing Director of the team Rick Guttridge to find out exactly how their innovative approach and stand against AVEs is proving value and winning them awards.

Congratulations! You just won two global AMEC awards for effective campaigns — what were they?

Gold for Most Effective B2B PR campaign for Bright HR and Silver for Most Effective Consumer PR campaign for Silentnight

Tell us a bit more about one of the campaigns, what was the objective?

Bright HR is a people management software company that enables HR managers and small business owners to effortlessly manage staff absence. Launched in January 2016, the brand had one fundamental problem — low awareness.

We used free tool Google Trends to analyse awareness of the brand and when compared to a more generic but related search term such as HR Software Search patterns here have been used as a proxy for brand awareness.

Agreeing specific business objectives with our client was key to run a successful campaign and measuring it effectively. Objectives were agreed upon between SGPR and BrightHR and were based on brand tracking of competitors and Q1 sales targets.


  1. Raise awareness among HR managers, SME owners and resellers (specifically accountants, consultants and financial advisors), as evidenced by rising levels of hits to site, by 100% in six months. 20% of coverage to contain a quality backlink. Further KPIs as outlined below
  2. Position BrightHR as an expert on workplace cultures. KPI: 30% of coverage featuring quotes from BrightHR experts
  3. Minimum 60 trade/B2B pieces of coverage
  4. Minimum 20 national consumer pieces of coverage
  5. Driving data capture from target audience. KPI: 1,000 downloads

What was so good about the campaign?

We’ll let the AMEC judges tell you that:

“We loved the creativity both in the execution, media mix and news hijacking. Great evaluation case of an original PR campaign and a good example of how research can help define and measure outputs and outreach.”

How did you measure the effectiveness of the campaign? Can you share an example process?

The tracking of coverage and further opportunities on the campaign was intense. We tracked Daily/weekly/monthly for hits whilst spotting opportunities for further PR thought leadership activities (speaking opps etc). We were also constantly checking for impact on social sharing, web traffic (and user journey to product trial & sales), downloads of reports, links secured back to content and then the subsequent impact we were having in improving our client’s visibility in Google search results.

“we didn’t just track coverage and add to a report we were learning throughout the tracking process and tweaking the live campaign. We were able to test, learn and substantiate our theories about which media types would convert well”

As mentioned, we didn’t just track coverage and add to a report we were learning throughout the tracking process and tweaking the live campaign. We were able to test, learn and substantiate our theories about which media types would convert well and adjust outreach for maximum effect.

This required a bought-in and fluid client and a relentless team mindset to always improve. Without that approach and work-flow the results wouldn’t have been possible.

Were there any stand-out metrics?

Yes, many. Here are the highlights we’re proud of:

  • Our client experienced a boost in traffic from Google search, this was attributed to our campaign due to the links we secured in PR coverage
  • Half of the highest ranking sites were attributed to PR
  • We achieved 240 pieces of coverage
  • 53% trade/B2B, 21% national consumer, 26% regional
  • 68% included quotes from experts and BrightHR personnel
  • 33% coverage contained a quality link back to client’s site, and the coverage containing backlinks had strong domain authority (Moz.com influence score)
  • 2,200 expert-led report downloads/data capture (KPI of 1,000)
  • Raft of award wins including ‘Best Communication’ (2016 Best Business Awards) and ‘HR Provider of the Year’ (2016 SME Awards)
  • 126 trade/B2B pieces of coverage (KPI of 60)
  • 26% of these appeared in accountancy, consultancy and financial advisory verticals
  • Highlights included thought leadership feature on the future of accounting in Economia, article on staff loyalty in SME Magazine and inclusion in an FT report for financial advisors
  • Google Analytics data revealed that trade / B2B media content was particularly successful at driving direct referral traffic back to BrightHR’s site

What tools helped you measure the campaign?

We use a lot of tools in our process here are a few:

  • Press cuttings (Kantar Precise) (evaluated to include hits in target titles, message penetration, link inclusion
  • Google Analytics & Google Console
  • SEM Rush
  • MOZ search
  • Online data capture forms

Why do you use an external third party for measurement?

We choose to tier the methodologies we use to measure and evaluate client campaigns dependent upon budgets, activities and objectives.

There are some excellent free and low cost tools out there which we utilise as well such as coveragebook.com and answertheclient.com (hat tip to you guys!)

We elect to use an independent measurement expert to provide consistency and impartiality when assessing the work and sentiment etc. All too often the task of evaluation and reporting PR work is handed to the junior with little or no specific skill in the area.

“We hear horror stories of evaluation statistics being ‘massaged’ to meet client need. By outsourcing we remove ay client concerns over this”

The ‘mark your own homework’ culture too often found in agencies is open to abuse and we hear horror stories of evaluation statistics being ‘massaged’ to meet client need. By outsourcing we remove ay client concerns over this.

As our analyst herself says:

“Yes, anyone can be a media analyst. But my anecdotal experience suggests certain personality profiles lend themselves to our work. We put the “anal” into the word “analyst! Using the Myers-Briggs personality profiles, for example, people defined as “Defenders” are characterized by having excellent analytic and judgment skills. “Consuls” are social animals who get on with other people”

Did you use visuals in your report?

Yes. We make our reports bespoke to each client’s needs and preferences. Our C Suite summary uses the business language the audience is comfortable with and also utilises graphs and charts to simplify understanding and bring stats to life.

As an industry, how can we continue to improve PR measurement?

Continue to talk, try new tactics and educate clients. Refusing to offer AVE’s is a great standpoint!

Always look at other business metrics and see how, if relevant, we can implement them into our Comms measurement and continually look to integrate PR measures with other marketing measures.

What an amazing insight into a busy modern PR team. Thank you to Rick and his team for opening the door and sharing their strategy in PR measurement. An inside track to their innovative approach.

Step inside other innovative PR teams:

Read our interview with Andrew Jennings, the lead of Ketchum’s Agile team ‘Storyworks’ here.

Gisele Navarro, head of media relations at Neomam Studios reveals the tech secrets behind her team’s success here.