One thing my 20+ years in PR has taught me is that this industry doesn’t stay still for long. Take PR measurement. My early career saw me creating coverage books for clients and spending lots of time measuring column inches to establish the AVE. I wasn’t alone. But fast forward to today and the industry has woken up to the fact that AVE is in many ways not a valid measure for PR.
Despite the criticism AVE has received over the years, there was method in the madness as it was (and still is sometimes) used because clients and senior managers wanted to see some form of financial ROI. However, as we all know PR and advertising are very different and AVE doesn’t tell you anything about the effectiveness of a campaign in reaching and engaging its target audience and how it has altered their perception, understanding or propensity to buy. If people want a true PR ROI figure they should join the dots between PR and sales – this is possible.
Consider how the following measurement areas could be applied to offer financial ROI.
- Brand impact on sales: It’s not that difficult to ask existing and prospective customers what influences their decision to buy from your brand. Having PR on the list of channels in lead data capture forms and customer surveys is a great way to measure how much PR has impacted actual sales. From this PR brand impact ROI is easily calculable.
- Demand impact: As I’ve said, the sales leads that PR can generate can go frustratingly unnoticed, and tracking lead sources and influences is essential. But think also about the role PR can play from a broader demand generation perspective. How do you influence the market to see a need for your products? How do you nurture cold leads into hot prospects and customers? A lot of what a PR campaign produces can be applied to broader inbound marketing campaigns that not only drive coverage but drive people to buy. With tight marketing budgets, future investment in PR often depends on demonstrating how PR can contribute to lead generation, so get the sales team on-board pronto!
- Digital: Integrating digital marketing with PR will show the true impact your campaign is having on SEO, social media engagement and website referrals, and can lead you to vital financial measures (how PR has contributed to the sales process). PR can also help to increase website referrals, boost social engagement and build vital high domain authority links to a website to improve search rankings. It’s possible to track PR’s impact in all of these areas and determine what portion of digital marketing ROI it is responsible for.
No more AVE doesn’t mean no more ROI. There are far more beneficial and achievable ways of measuring PR’s true financial impact and return.