What's that you say? You want to know how to measure the value of your public relations investment? Loaded question you have there. I'll do my best to explain.
We used to report return on investment [shudder]. That involved hours upon hours of time measuring the size of a placement in column inches, contacting the outlet's advertising rep to find out the cost per column inch, then calculating for a comparable ad value. The kicker was that we'd then multiply the ad value by three. Why? Because editorial is three times as valuable as advertising. Why three? Because we said so. Because that's the industry standard. Doesn't every industry have one of these?
This type of ROI works if you're comparing to years past or other campaigns using the same industry standard. That said, there are some big hurdles to reporting ROI now that the media has changed so drastically. There are a high number of media outlets without easy-to-find ad rates (like blogs) and the high number of online placements, which are very hard to compare to an editorial article (do you use a run of site number? A leaderboard? etc.).
Please, don't ask your PR team to provide you with an ROI. Instead, I offer five suggestions and indicators to help you measure public relations to determine if your agency is delivering.
1. Request a monthly activity report.
Here at i.d.e.a., we send a document at the end of each month that breaks down every main initiative we worked on and what happened throughout the month, listing current media placements and leads.
2. Meet with your team regularly.
Get feedback as to what the media is saying about your product. If your team can't give any feedback, they may not be getting through to anyone and you'll want to explore what their hurdles are.
3. Measure impressions.
We don't recommend this consistently for every clip because of the high volume and the fact that this number can be hard to find with smaller outlets (like blogs). For campaigns or projects, however, this is a great way to provide that number that everyone's boss wants.
4. Set goals with your team.
Consider setting a list of top outlets which you know you have a good chance of getting into. Measure their success based on their efforts towards the outlets (either placements, or communications with them). Other goals could include a number of placements per month or per medium type (hispanic, broadcast, digital, etc.).
5. Create a ranking system.
With your PR team, determine a system to rank the quality of your placements and rank them each month to compare over time. A drop in quality of placements may be the result of your team spending less face-to-face time with media, not getting enough information from you and your team or not having enough time in the budget to focus on these initiatives.
Most importantly, it is very difficult to link PR directly to sales. I did it in my last blog post on PR tips and how they worked, so it can be done, but with caution. Recognize what other factors may be affecting sales. PR can drive leads to your storefront, but what happens when they get in there? PR is a very important piece of the mix, but very hard to link directly to sales.
These methods of reporting can be tedious and time consuming. Be sure that the method you choose is worthwhile to you and your team. If you very much trust your PR team, keep reporting simple. Review your clips at the end of each month and the activity report, and let them spend their time doing the work each month instead of reporting on the work they didn't have time for.
If you're interested in measuring social media too, have a look at Indra's blog post on the topic: Can You Measure Social Media ROI?