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By Kelly Byrd July 26, 2017 Reading time: 3 minutes


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An AirPR customer recently mentioned to me that they would be even more successful if they could report a PR metric comparable to “return on advertising spend” (ROAS), a key metric their advertising counterparts use when reporting to C-suite executives. My immediate thought was that we also need a “return on PR spend” (ROPRS) metric that can show the cost-benefit analysis of any given PR campaign.

Earlier this month on Twitter, New York Times writer Farhad Manjoo debated common misconceptions of what constitutes PR success. Maybe it is a good time to reassess PR metrics altogether, so we stop valuing vanity.

So what would this new metric, ROPRS, look like? Here are some thoughts on how we can better equate measurement between advertising and PR with a PR metric similar to ROAS.

How ROAS is Calculated

ROAS measures gross revenue generated from each dollar spent on advertising. In short, ROAS represents revenue generated from an advertising campaign as compared to the total cost of that ad campaign.

With this metric, marketing is a necessary cost, rather than an investment to incrementally grow profits (as is the case in PR, at times).

Defining ROPRS

ROPRS would measure revenue generated for every dollar spent on a PR campaign, i.e., revenue from a PR campaign compared to the total spend or cost of that campaign.

PR campaigns can be company, product or service launches, announcements, events, or any other initiative with a defined budget. The spend for a campaign will vary depending on how each company defines what is a relevant spend. This could include staffing, agency partners, and — if you incorporate paid strategies into PR — any related spends for influencer placements.

Why ROPRS Could Be Beneficial for PR

Continuing to have a disparity between how advertising and PR teams report results in relation to business objectives and revenue will only propagate the illusion that PR can’t “move the needle” as much as advertising, when really, it can.

Advanced attribution, measurement, and reporting have begun moving the PR industry toward more business-focused metrics, such as website traffic and website interactions driven by PR content. Using a defined metric like ROPRS can drive PR agencies and vendors to evolve their business models and pricing to become more transparent and focused on driving business performance, not just impressions.

Instead of focusing on vanity metrics, showcase what you’re doing and how effective it is in terms of quantitative business objectives — not just how far it reached. Doing so can help PR professionals get full credit for their work and become even more effective, driving the industry forward in strategy and status.

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  • First, that tweet makes me angry. It’s so short-sighted on his part. Clients and executives (though I don’t agree) ALWAYS want to know where it’s appearing. And anyone older than 40 wants it in print more than online. It’s not rational, but it’s fact. So yeah, Farhad, the people who sign our checks want both. At the very least, we have to be able to answer them when they ask. I totally agree online is better (and you can measure it), but that’s not reality for most of us.

    As far as ROPRS goes, I agree. We HAVE to find a universal way to prove our effectiveness. I just read an article on Digiday about how PR can’t be tracked to sales. Which you and I both know is bunk. It starts with attribution moves to qualified generated sales and then moves to conversions.

    We have to create the PR stack that allows us to track all three of those things, starting with AirPR.

    • Robb Wexler

      What Gini said. By the way, in my spare time I build social media soap boxes that CAN be measured in sales…assuming I don’t run out of soap.

    • Thanks for reading and for the comment @ginidietrich:disqus.

      Yes, PR CAN be tracked to sales! Public perception and communications have always effected sales – it’s just new that we can track all the way through. So, let’s!

    • mdraz

      There’s another extremely important consideration regarding the question “is this running in print or online only” Media matters. Mediums matter. Different media venues, and media channels, attract different audiences and elicit different behaviors. That’s not speculation, as you know. There’s data to back that up. If they’re going to weigh in about marketing related stuff, however basic it is, they should understand what they’re weighing in on first. I like Farhad and MikeIsaac’s respective work a lot. But isn’t it time for our profession to take a lead in shaping the conversation of the comms profession?

  • Thanks for reading and for the comment @ginidietrich:disqus.

    Yes, PR CAN be tracked to sales! Public perception and communications have always effected sales – it’s just new that we can track all the way through. So, let’s!

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