Artisan Marketing Communications offers clients PR and marketing communications advice, practical support and implementation.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A few thoughts on return on investment for PR

All PR professionals must grapple with the perennial problem that affects our industry: Return On Investment (ROI).

We are in the marketing fraternity but we are not as lucky as direct marketers or digital media professionals; in both cases exact figures on ROI can be made or at least to a greater degree. Moreover, not only can unique visitors, return visits and leads be made for online marketing, the agency can also include the added bonus of talking about adding value through reinforcing the brand. Direct marketers can also show the figures that make managing directors eyes water.

Can PR agencies do the same for offline PR?

Yes, we can show the amount of coverage in terms of the cost it would take if the space was achieved by advertising. We can, if the client has been tracking, ascertain the number of leads.

Yet, PR is notorious for being hard to fully assess. Two of PR's biggest attributes that far outstrip direct marketing and many other forms of marketing are profile (recognition) and brand value (perceived worth of a service). But how do you measure that? You know it is happening, one of my clients has sent me an e-mail today to tell me he had congratulatory calls from associates that had seen his latest account win in a business magazine. Yet, I cannot put a figure on it.

It terms of cost against results PR has a lot to offer although we cannot accurately determine how much. It is a powerful marketing channel and can make and break companies: Ben and Jerry's was made through great PR alone and Ratners broken through poor communications.

So where do we go from here on this question?

Well, I think figures are only a part of any business story. We are a figures obsessed society: health managers, crime and education being broken down to figures as the key basis for determining success. The statistics might be saying improvement but who thinks any of these areas is on the up despite what the figures purportedly state?

I think we have to see PR as a way that can have returns in a number of ways, such as improved profile, a way to reinforce key messages and perceived value of a service as well as the hard facts about leads and sales.

I was talking to journalist and master blogger Craig McGinty about this very point. He said look at it from the perspective of how much you save for the client. How much time and cost would be needed to gain the coverage and the benefits through other channels? It is a good point.

As PR increasingly uses online methods the issues will continue rather than diminish. Blogs offer the returns of many offline techniques. They can be equally hard to assess, as discussed on this blog on the 29th January. What price reputation, community and exchange of ideas?

The question and possible answers continue to be a source of discussion.


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