You might have gathered from our last couple of blogs that one of the most common questions we hear from marketers is, “how can we tell if our PR spend is generating ROI?” It’s an understandable question and, while measuring the ROI of a PR campaign isn’t always as straightforward as an advertising or digital campaign, it is possible.
Measuring the ROI of a PR campaign is not one-size-fits-all approach. It’s wholly dependent on the business outcomes you’d like to see from a campaign; lead generation, brand awareness, public sentiment etc. But while PR can contribute to achieving these objectives in many different ways, ensuring that your PR spend is getting you in front of the right audience and resulting in increased revenue or sales, is slightly more difficult to quantify.
So, how do marketers prove the ROI of their PR spend? As the final instalment of our series of blogs on how to measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign, in this blog we’ll delve into more methods of measuring ROI to ensure that your PR budget is working as hard as possible, and is getting you in front of the people who really matter.
Impactful media coverage
Although it’s always great to see coverage, merely measuring the number of media placements can be deceiving. Not all media placements have the same value, and quality should come over quantity when running a targeted media campaign.
But how do you measure the value of a media placement? Well, you could consider the reach of the publication if you’re trying to improve your brand exposure, as in this instance you will want to see the biggest reach possible. However, if you’re looking to sell a product or service to a targeted audience or customer base, or be positioned as a thought leader amongst a niche audience, bigger doesn’t always mean better. In this situation, the most effective PR campaigns will be targeted in their approach.
Work alongside your PR team, or agency, to determine which publications qualify as “top tier.” These should then be treated as an ultimate wish list of titles you’d like to hit. But top tier titles will not be the same for everybody. While Forbes or The Guardian may seem like objective tier one publications, if you’re running a B2B campaign focusing on a specialist product that you would like to promote to architects, for example, then your tier one titles will include publications that are popular amongst architects and specifiers, like RIBA Journal, AJ or ABC&D.
Once your media list has been built, to ensure a targeted approach with the tier one titles agreed, consider setting a KPI that measures how many hits you’ve had in the agreed titles, rather than a measurement based on reach or quantity of coverage. If you want to get in front of specific target customers, this is a much more accurate way of measuring success as high reach publications won’t necessarily point to more sales or brand awareness amongst potential buyers and decision-makers. But, being featured in the publications that they actually read, will.
Any business needs to know and identify the sources behind web traffic and conversions to sales. But with PR, although engaging content often results in a reader searching for a person or business on their own accord, it’s not always as easy to pinpoint the traffic without a backlink.
Knowing that backlinks contribute to increased search value, in recent years, many news outlets have become much more frugal on giving them out and while it is becoming more challenging, you can still secure them and in turn drive traffic from news stories back to your site. One way that this can be done is to create quality impactful and engaging content or a landing page that supplements the story and embed it on your website. This way, the outlet publishing the story has more reason to link to this supplemental material, such as a webpage with further information, interactive map/calculator, an infographic, video, whitepaper or mini report, as it builds on their content and offers further insight.
By directing readers to a microsite, or content embedded on the website via a publication, you can ultimately analyse and measure the impact of an article(s) and of course your content/campaign, while improving your search rankings – if the content you’re linking to is housed on your site. Once a backlink has been secured, this will increase ROI further, as the links will remain live and drive traffic to the website months – even years – later.
Increased sales & lead generation
This is one of the hardest values to measure, as PR campaigns are often executed as part of marketing/sales activity and the consumer/buyer may well have heard about your product/service via a different sales route. The new customer might contact your business or purchase your product after seeing an ad or hearing about it from a friend, or visit your website after seeing your brand somewhere beyond the world of media. So, the paths aren’t always as clear as a paid click that goes directly to your site.
For some, PR campaigns are measured around lead generation, making it easy to monitor direct referrals from PR activity. The purpose of lead generation can vary from driving sales leads to increasing webinar registrations, but in the end, they have the same goal and that is to get prospects to raise their hands. In PR, this could look like utilising the media to direct prospects to some gated content on the website, or it could be something more interactive like hosting a roundtable with key prospects and monitoring whether attendees are converted to customers. Lead gen campaigns can operate in a variety of ways, but essentially the campaign will include a strategy using a media source – or sources – and an offer or opportunity to help generate inbound leads.
Some campaigns have different objectives, however, and may focus on brand awareness, or influencing brand reputation, for these campaigns, it can be hard to tell if the PR campaign impacted sales. Some companies ask customers directly about their path to purchase either via a simple survey on purchase/post-purchase, via market research or during conversation, asking them how they heard about the company – although the latter can be much more time-consuming and challenging for businesses who don’t have as much facetime with their customers (e.g. eCommerce brands). However, where this is not possible, if you see a spike in traffic, purchases or call volume and there’s no data to support the increased volume other than a recent news story or media appearance, then pay attention to the patterns as they may give you an obvious answer as to how those sales were generated.
If you’re paying attention to sales patterns, you can determine trends. If you, or your spokesperson has conducted a television interview, a radio segment, or if you’ve just issued a new product press release for instance and you’re suddenly inundated with enquiries/sales, then you have to look at where this awareness stemmed from. Increased enquiries following a large campaign launch will often point to the success of a campaign and ROI can ultimately be calculated by comparing the cost of the campaign vs revenue generated around a specific window in tandem with the campaign.