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By Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer September 20, 2017 Reading time: 7 minutes


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Demystifying PR ROI

MarTech forever changed the way that marketers work, what they report as success and how they do their jobs. PR professionals and communicators, however, have not, as a whole, significantly changed how they measure their success. CMOs and CEOs are starting to ask: Why can’t PR be measured and attributed the way that marketing efforts can? The typical response is that PR ROI and Earned Media are more difficult to measure.

However, the truth is that we can measure it. Let’s demystify the ROI of PR.

Without PR attribution, communicators only know the top of the funnel, i.e., which publications wrote about their brand. But with PR attribution, one can see how efforts impact business goals and metrics aligned with the lower part of the funnel, such as whether those articles prompt downloads, convert leads into customers, and so forth.

Make Data-Driven PR Decisions

For communicators to continue to have a seat at the table, understand the effectiveness of their efforts, and make data-driven decisions in PR planning, utilizing technology to sift through and analyze mountains of non-normalized data sets has become paramount. However, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Truly understanding the customer journey from PR through to sale is a tough challenge that few technologies provide.

If not impressions or AVEs, what should communicators be measuring? We can talk about measuring against business outcomes, but what does that truly mean? Let’s take a look at what works for marketing:

Marketers use attribution to credit conversions to channels and assign them a cost. To define further, conversions are anything that is important to you (i.e., business objectives). It could be when a potential customer requests a demo via a lead form on your website, invites a friend to sign up through a referral program, completes a purchase, or writes a review. Channels are the method of earned, owned, or paid media that led to the conversion.

Therefore owned analytics become a great asset in PR. Knowing true conversions to business objectives and where earned media contributed to those conversions is paramount to succeeding in PR attribution.

How can we access data for PR ROI?

There are a variety of tools and technologies available to begin determining attribution for earned media. At the most basic, Google Analytics should be your best friend. However, truly understanding the impact of earned media requires filtering and analyzing large quantities of disparate datasets that aren’t at the fingertips of most communicators. Moreover, there is no straightforward customer journey to trace with the increasing number of digital touchpoints that consumers encounter today. Most importantly, without a backlink in the article to your website, it is impossible to determine attribution and PR ROI with any existing analytics solution. That’s why AirPR was built. Once attribution is determined, PR and content strategies can focus on the right message at the right time on the right media.

Learn about the metrics you need to look for with this free guide to PR Measurement 

Through investigating the effectiveness of different types of earned and owned media, communicators might discover that their owned media efforts (i.e. a white paper or blog post on their own site) are actually producing more conversions or actions than a placement on TV.

Sometimes trade publications have greater returns due to their highly targeted audiences. The impression metric fundamentally fails to capture any of this behavior. How many site visits did my content drive and how many of those site visits convert or perform an action on my website? Herein lies the power of attribution to determine PR ROI.

Four steps to implementing a PR Attribution plan:
  1. Understand Business Objectives: Identify business goals. These can be tied to revenue and lead generation, but can also be about increasing traffic, improving reputation, gaining meaningful brand engagement, or retaining customers. Each of these business objectives will then lead to exactly what you need to measure. Once business objectives and metrics are identified, tie them to PR metrics. Set clear content goals at the onset of any PR strategy by answering the following three questions:
    • Content: What format should I choose based on the audience I’m trying to reach?
    • Channel: What conduit am I using to deliver my content so I can best reach my target audience?
    • Measurement: How am I defining success? Specifically, what do I want my audience to do after encountering the story?

    These questions all revolve around target audience and rightfully so—target audience should always be at the heart of any PR work. This simple, three question exercise can exponentially increase the probability of PR success.

  2. Secure Tools & Technologies: There are a variety of tools and technologies available to aid in the implementation of a PR attribution model, but the first step should be to examine tools that are already in your backyard. Working with your marketing team to determine which marketing automation tools are already in place (for example, Marketo, Eloqua, or Pardot) can give you initial indicators for PR attribution. Gaining access to your organization’s Google Analytics and understanding GA goals is another important step to success. By knowing the tools already available to you, you can kickstart your PR attribution model implementation and provide consistent reporting with other teams.

    However, to implement a PR attribution model fully and properly, further technologies that marketers don’t usually utilize are needed. AirPR Analyst is the premier tool for communicators to fully understand the topics and content driving the most engagement, and ultimately report on PR attribution. AirPR Analyst tracks media activity and provides actionable insights into your public relations efforts to tell you what is driving engagement and moving the needle in terms of traffic, conversion, organic search, and even revenue.
  3. Implement Your Plan: It seemingly takes a village to effectively implement a PR attribution model and it is important to identify responsibilities at the onset so the process is easy and seamless. Who will be needed to complete implementation of tools and technologies? Who is responsible for reporting? Will every member of the PR and social media teams be educated on the new model so they can utilize insights to drive content strategy?

    Once an implementation team is in place, decide on an effective transition date. Communicators can begin to gather insights over a few months before beginning to report to executives or clients. By planning towards business objectives, choosing technologies, and establishing a team, you will lay the groundwork for a successful launch.
  4. Iterate: Simply implementing a model to find PR ROI is only the start. The true value of measuring PR attribution comes with utilizing gained insights to drive content strategy, key messaging, earned media efforts, and goal setting.

    As you become more comfortable with your results, you will become extremely agile in making data-driven decisions about what messages and angles are most effective in your continuous storytelling cycle.

The PR profession has undergone radical change over the past decade as it has seen the explosion of social media, the end of news as an event due to real-time, aggregated customized content delivery to mobile devices, the rise of social influencers, and the big data boom. With more data than ever also brings more access to insights than ever. The next frontier of the PRTech revolution will be in PR attribution and in discovering the value of PR ROI.

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