Measuring ROI on Public Relations
Over the years there has been numerous attempts by various people to give a "value" to press coverage so Managers could compare specific items of press coverage and say things such as "Wow, that was a great bit of coverage it scores a 98, whereas that coverage wasn't so good as it only gets a 15".
I've written various posts and articles over the past two decades about why such systems are nonsense for most businesses, although I can see that they may have value to large corporates that get high volumes of coverage and need to synthesise this into something really succinct for upward reporting or for tracking a really prominent story that may damage their reputation.
So, without such a benchmark, how do you asses the value of your press coverage? After all, it will be influencing large numbers of readers in many ways that are probably hard to discern.
As with the other blogs in this series on marketing ROI, the starting point is to think about "what is your purpose" for seeking press coverage. If you don't have clear purposes and objectives, you cannot assess whether press coverage or any other marketing activity is helping you achieve them.
After all, the formula for working out the ROI is theoretically simple: Value of benefit / Cost. The challenge is ascertaining the benefit and also disentangling the contributions of PR from those of the other simultaneous marketing activities. For this task clear thinking is needed.
A clear objective could be something specific and business goal focussed, such as as "get 20 CEO's to sign up to our forthcoming events" or "become recognised by business owners as one of the three leading SME tax advisor's in the region", or maybe "improve our attractiveness as an employer to graduates so we get x% more candidates".
Or maybe it could be something comparative like "improve our competitive position by getting 20% more mentions in relevant business press than each of our four main competitors"; or tactical like "Boost our search engine ranking by getting articles in 10 credible online news sites that link to our website".
Avoid nebulous PR objectives
Nebulous ambitions like "get the name out there" are all well and good... but in most cases it will be pretty hard to discern whether you "got your name out there" sufficiently, what impact it had and whether the time and resources of "getting your name out there" were well spent.
Thinking about the above will start to help you devise measurements to start answering the impact of your media coverage.
So, with some of the above examples - if you are generating press coverage to boost leads to your website and improve your SEO, then this is something that can be measured. Similarly, spokespeople at two Kelso clients clients have remarked in recent weeks how the number of visitors to their LinkedIn profiles and interactions has surged during recent campaigns.
These are powerful indicators that campaigns are having a big impact.
Getting to grips with assessing drip-drip PR activity
With many firms, especially professional partnerships, they do a regular spread of ad hoc PR activity rather than specific campaigns. I wonder whether such ad hoc PR activity is a good use of resources for many firms, after all building a reputation requires reptition and consistency - spreading out the limited PR resource so everyone in a broad general professional practice gets a slice is the anthises of this.
Also, ascertaining the impact of regular drip-drip of activity is much harder than campaign-based activity.
In such situations it is worth asking these questions to start to consider if you PR is delivering a bang for the buck:
• Is your coverage in the publications your clients and referrers read (or perhaps ones read by recruits or referrers if they are your target)? While measuring the volume of coverage by itself is a pretty blunt assessment , ultimately quantity does matter. If you are getting little or no coverage in the right places then it won't have any impact!
• How does your coverage compare to your leading competitors. Ultimately, if they are getting lots more coverage than you, then you are probably being drowned out rather than standing out. Similarly, if you are dominating them that is a pretty good indication that you are doing something right!
• Do journalists come to you? Quite frankly in the current "cut and paste" world of journalists, there is very little research or development of stories going on. Journalists take what is in their inbox, make a story and maybe make one or two phone calls if they really really have to. If you are getting press enquires in this environment, you either have a really strong reputation or great press relationships or both. It's a really good sign you're doing something right!
• Are you getting enquiries from firms you don't know? It is worth noting that it is pretty hard to get accurate information from callers as they often don't know or don't recall how a firm came onto their radar. Often they also give inaccurate answers ... for instance if you ask people "how did you hear about us" they will often say "through Google", when actually it was press coverage that prompted them to search Google in the first place! But don't let potential flakiness of research put you off ... it's still good to ask recruits, referrers and prospects as some research is better than none.
• Does your coverage distinguish and/or differentiate you? If the coverage doesn't say much about expertise or capabilities, whether explicitly or implicitily, you may want to think about its value and how you can give it more bite.
• Has your public relations activity generated links from media websites. Such links are hugely valuable for getting your website to the top of Google (which is one of the most valuable places to be for generating new leads)... so do take these into account. They are a source of traffic and, probably much more importantly, boost your website's Google ranking. Do think about how your PR activity can generate more of these.
What do you think? Do share your experiences of evaluating the impact of marketing generally and PR particularly in the comment boxes below!