6 Creative Ways PR Leaders Measure ROI

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Let’s cut to the chase.

The PR community is under immense pressure to translate efforts to ROI—a task that often feels daunting, nebulous, and sometimes impossible. While common sense tells us that media outreach and community relations are among the best growth-drivers for our businesses, our spreadsheets are a little less forgiving.

Enter this blog post.

The beauty of data is that ‘success stories’ are often in the eye of the beholder. Because there is no universal tool or formula to measure the success of our efforts, we’re in a strong position to establish our own benchmarks.

We asked 6 PR leaders to share their best tips for measuring and communicating the ROI of their media relations, community-building, and SEO efforts. Here’s what they shared.

1. Look beyond attention to measure sentiment

Tip nominated by: Sylvia Ng, VP of growth and analytics at ScribbleLive

In PR and content marketing, success is often tied to establish standards of reach and impressions through Media Rating Points or share of voice. What these perspectives overlook, however, are how people react.

That’s why Ng encourages PR leaders to quantify sentiment, in addition to reach

“Attention metrics measure not only how often someone is mentioned, but how people react, explains Ng. “By including sentiment and engagement metrics, you can quickly see which campaigns are moving the needle in terms of influence.”

2. Quantify potential losses

Tip nominated by: Steven Giovinco, reputation management consultant

PR leaders are well aware of the fact that one negative review can wreak havoc. Giovinco points out that according to one forecast, one unhappy customer can cause a business to lose 30.

Using this benchmark, Giovinco and his team often share anticipated loss projections with their clients. He encourages PR leaders to follow these simple steps:

  • Determine an average customer value
  • Multiple that value by 30

One negative review to a company with an average customer value of $1,000, for instance, would result in a company missing out on $30K.

When using this forecasting process, we need to make sure that we’re considering potential biases in our data. For instance, companies with negative reviews may also be more likely to deliver lower quality services. A negative review may not be as hard-hitting to an otherwise loved brand. Treat this average as a rough benchmark, and understand that there is likely a range in actual opportunity costs.

3. Craft a clear business story

Tip nominated by: Tyler Williams, PR manager at Alterna Haircare

Like many PR leaders, Williams measures the success of his PR initiatives through placement and impressions. But he doesn’t let the story stop there. He makes sure to contextualize these ‘branding’ numbers into a sales and revenue story.

“We mark certain placements has high quality if they meet certain criteria (ex. Clear product shot, certain amount of brand/product messaging, etc.) so we can measure how much of our impressions were high quality,” Williams explains. “Further, we also look for spikes in sales at our retailers and on our e-commerce site correlating to specific initiatives or placements.”

These perspectives allow Williams to build a clear connection between wins, brand successes, and results.

4. Determine whether your brand is more visible to target buyers

Tip nominated by: Samuel Scott, director of marketing at Logz.io

PR’s core function is to increase a brand’s visibility with target-market buyers. It’s this foundational view that inspires Scott to measure success based on SEO performance and down-the-road sales conversions.

“In terms of PR, I look at the following specific metrics: Increases (or not) in branded search terms in Google Webmaster Tools as well as in clicks to my website from those searches,” says Scott. “Seeing the number of conversions and/or sales from referral traffic as a result of links in publications in which we were mentioned.”

Scott also prioritizes the following growth metrics:

  • Whether social followings generally increased following the coverage
  • How search-engine rankings increase over time for non-branded search terms as a result of the natural, authoritative links that PR campaigns create
  • Comparing the conversion rates and bounce rates for referral traffic from various publications — that helps to clarify what publications are the best to target in future PR campaigns
  • When we publicize our own content, I see how that content then contributes to our conversions and/or sales

These perspectives contextualize brand visibility from multiple perspectives, ranging from SEO to social media, referrals, and transactions.

5. Measure credibility

Tip nominated by: Christine Pietryla, owner at Pietryla PR & Marketing

As Pietryla points out, one of the biggest reasons why it’s hard to measure ROI in PR is that efforts, often, are not tied to sales. Buyer journeys are complex and often span multiple interactions. While PR may be a point of discovery and website traffic, audiences may take time to transact.

That’s why Pietryla encourages PR leaders to take a step back and measure ROI in terms of the variables that impact sales.

“For instance, credibility is important to the sales process,” says Pietryla. “Measure credibility in net promoter scores, online sentiment, customer surveys — any way that gives you an accurate (read: repeatable) metric that you can measure repeatedly over time. You’ll see where your results increase or sustain positive perceptions.”

6. Quantify influence

Tip nominated by: Anne Milo, public relations manager at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network

Smart organizations want to position themselves as industry front runners. One way to capture this goal is to measure a brand’s share of voice. This metric is one that Milo quantifies regularly.

“Our executive team appreciates the share of voice analysis between our competitors and similar events that are taking place across the country,” says Milo. “This perspective allows our organization to listen and read about what interests journalists and piques their interest, and plan part of our media strategy accordingly. The combination of metrics above allows us to measure fiscal year, campaign, and large event media performance which allows us to strategically plan for the upcoming years.”

The community weighs in

It’s your turn to join the conversation. How does your team measure the ROI of PR? Share your best tips, thoughts, general comments, and even your objections in the comments section below.

Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri

Ritika Puri is a data-lover and marketer turned entrepreneur and writer. Ritika works with content marketers to build lead pipelines and has written for Forbes, The Next Web, Business Insider, and American Express OPEN Forum.

Disclaimer: The author's views are entirely their own, and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of BuzzStream.
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