6 Methods to Measure the ROI of Public Relations
By Mark Macias
Many business owners, especially e-commerce companies, devote a large portion of their budgets to online advertising because when executed effectively, it will translate into new sales. But what those business owners frequently forget is when that ad budget is over, so goes the media campaign.
It doesn’t work like that with public relations. Your story placed on the websites of the Los Angeles Times, New York Post or other influential websites will continue to educate consumers on your product long after that PR campaign ends, effectively lowering the cost of your PR campaign over time.
An example of this ocurred with one of the most popular Superbowl commercials from 2011. That Volkswagen Mini Vader ad reached about 111 million people from the Super Bowl alone, but when the car maker included the 58.5 million people who watched the commercial on YouTube, the total viewership jumps to 170 million viewers, bringing that ad buy down to roughly a penny per view. Now that is an ROI that will make any CMO elated. But that low ROI (Return on Investment) didn’t come solely from advertising. A good portion of it came from the PR and social media push behind the commercial, helping it become one of the lowest ad buys per viewer in Super Bowl history, according to Nielson statistics.
Measuring the ROI from a marketing or ad buy is fairly straight-forward, but PR has multiple prongs and variables that can make it more difficult to asses the direct impact of the bottom line, but it is possible. Here are six different methods to help you measure the ROI of your PR campaign:
The ROI of Media Placements
In addition to the number of media placements secured by your PR firm, you should also look closely at the internal distribution numbers and demographics reached from your PR outreach. Many news organizations publish these numbers on their advertising pages, giving you insight into how many or what type of consumer you are reaching. This assessment can give you a measurable look at the number of consumers your PR campaign is reaching.
The ROI for Search Engine Rankings
Nearly every PR story helps with your website ranking because the search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) identify these websites as quality links. In other words, Google believes if the New York Times links to your website, you business must have value. Here’s another way PR can help your website get a higher ranking with the search engines. Smaller blogs frequently run stories or snippets from the larger media outlets. If you are able to get a large story in a major newspaper, there is a good chance that you can get other, smaller websites to also do a story promoting your business, which can help your SEO. In a recent case with a real estate client, we used a prominent story in the New York Daily News to reach smaller real estate bloggers, effectively increasing the ROI from that PR campaign.
The ROI of Credibility
Public Relations is especially effective and measurable when it comes to increasing your credibility among the service sector industry. Consumers want to know that your service has been vetted and is reliable. If you’re on the local newscast as an expert or on CNBC as a financial expert, your customer will assume you are of a higher caliber. This increased credibility will improve your profile with potential customers and can lead to more sales.
The ROI from Analytics
In October 2013, Google changed its analytics data, making it harder to determine key words that are sending traffic to your website. The good news is you can still measure the ROI from PR using Google Analytics. If your publicist can get a hyperlink placed with the news organization, Analytics will tell you which websites are sending you new traffic. Unfortunately, a successful PR strategy gets your company into the conversation, so analytics can’t measure this aspect of PR, but if more people are finding your website using specific keywords for your company, you can safely assume the PR campaign is converting on its ROI.
The ROI of Social Media Influence
A successful PR campaign that uses video can become another way to measure the ROI of PR. My company, MaciasPR, produced videos for a small New York City restaurant, showcasing the restaurant’s happy hour, ambiance and dinner menus. One video alone got more than 3,000 views from users on Youtube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTwnkOp7f5Q) It might be difficult to measure the exact ROI from these video views but it is a measurable way to see how many new customers your campaign is reaching. Research also shows video on your website can increase sales up to two-fold, not to mention the added SEO value it brings with search engines.
The PR ROI with Sales
It’s very difficult for a PR firm to assess the ROI from sales if the client doesn’t share that information with the agency, however every business owner should be able to assess over time where their clients are coming from. One way to better track PR ROI is to create a special website link for the media campaign. If customers are typing in this direct link with any search engines, you know your PR campaign is gaining traction.