Blogs  / March 8, 2016

Up Your PR Game Using BuzzFeed’s Measurement Mindset

by Team Onclusive

I read an article in Fortune recently titled BuzzFeed: Days of Counting Pageviews and Unique Visitors Are Over that made my PR engineering heart jump with joy.

In the piece, media-and-tech-beat writer Mathew Ingram examines how BuzzFeed is shifting from so-called fuzzy metrics, like unique visitors or subscribers, to more engagement-driven metrics that align with the unique goals of specific content.


If media giants like BuzzFeed move towards metrics that matter, its partner in crime (PR) can’t be far behind. And let’s be real; This is one of the smartest shifts the comms world has seen to date.

Not only will BuzzFeed be able to better gauge the effectiveness of its output (which is the first step towards optimization), it will also have a clear picture of success. And really, isn’t that what we’re all after in the end?

Here are a few key takeaways from the piece, plus how you can super-charge your PR game using the BuzzFeed measurement mindset.

Takeaway 1: It’s time to re-evaluate the emphasis we all place on traditionally tracked metrics in lieu of more modern metrics.

BuzzFeed is moving away from unique visitors and pageviews which is pretty much the equivalent of PR’s impressions and social shares. Yes, there is some merit to these measurements, but there are far more powerful metrics to focus on. Identifying these new metrics does require an investment at the outset.

As Ingram astutely states, “The right thing to pay attention to depends on what the goal of the content is, where it appears, whether it’s a video or a photo or a news article, and how the network or platform it is on functions.”

Sounds a lot like the 3 Content World questions every PR pro needs to ask about their output:

1. Content: What format am I choosing based on the audience I’m trying to reach? (Text, Video, Visual, etc.)

2. Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver this content because it can best reach my target audience? (Earned, Owned, Newswire, etc.)

3. Measurement: How am I defining success? (Number of views, amount of conversions, message pull through, etc.)

What this really boils down to is content-specific measurement. Success, and the metrics you use to demonstrate it, are going to look different depending on what you create, where you seed it, and who you’re trying to reach.

BuzzFeed knows this and now, you do too! 🙂

BuzzFeed iconTakeaway 2: BuzzFeed’s team continually re-evaluates whether or not they’re looking at the right things when measuring a type of content’s effectiveness.

That’s right. Today’s measures of success will not necessarily be what matters 6 months down the road.

BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen calls the continual application of healthy skepticism “re-anchoring.” BuzzFeed’s team never stops looking at all the ways they’ve done things historically and questioning their relevance. Ingram describes it as, “…an almost scientific approach of checking to see whether the thing being measured is actually the thing that is most important.”

For PR pros and content producers, this should be a reminder that what worked last year (or even last quarter), isn’t necessarily the measurement practice you should be using today as consumer and media behavior changes over time.

Think about where your customers spend there time has changed, and consider “following them” to the places where they naturally “hang out” if you haven’t done so already.

Are you meeting your customers where they are or are you still trying to hook and pull?

Takeaway 3: There isn’t one golden ticket for successful measurement.

Silver bullets rarely exist in PR and the same goes for measurement. The key is always to consider the goal of specific types of content.

Consider a video, for example. Are you more concerned that your audience shares the video or watches the video the whole way through? Maybe a combo of both. What’s the goal with a short-form article? Perhaps a lot of shares or maybe it’s seeing key brand messaging appear in the copy.

What this means, PR pros and content creators, is that one size doesn’t fit all. Just like how there isn’t one surefire PR strategy that works for every e-commerce brand, success metrics have to be thought about in the context of your business.

What do you think of BuzzFeed’s recent measurement moves? Got another way PR can take a page from the book of BuzzFeed? Let us know in the comments below!