PR Next

Monthly eZine for PR Professionals

Measuring your efforts

Posted by prnext on July 20, 2009


hile I was pondering over what I could possibly write for the forthcoming issue of PR Next, a colleague recently raised the issue of “ROI.” That’s not a nouveau way of spelling “Roy,” but “Return on Investment.” It’s a particularly sticky wicket for us folks in public relations because, as Vikram had brought it out in his last article, public relations is plagued by a lack of respect that finds its roots in (1) the fact that you don’t need a license to practice PR, (2) PR’s poor and often inaccurate depiction in mass media/TV/movies and (3) nobody knows quite what PR is (A press release? Phone sales? An abbreviation for Puerto Rico?)
Depending upon the corporate culture your typical PR professional finds him/herself, trying to prove the value of public relations can be a challenge. There are those who try to equate PR to advertising as in measuring off the column inches of a story placed in a newspaper or magazine, or measuring the time of a TV news segment, then determining the equivalent cost if it were a paid advertising spot and saying, “This story would have cost you Rs. 5,00,000 if it were an ad,” you get the idea.
There are a myriad of problems with this approach. One, you can’t control editorial content like you can in an ad, so if you get a story placed for a client, is the ENTIRE story just about your client? There can be just a small mention or simply a quote in a 400 CC article. And what if what is said isn’t all that complimentary?
I took these questions to a noted industry veteran, who said that determining ROI should not be something that the PR person contemplates after completing the promotional campaign, getting the news story placed, etc. ROI should be predicated upon what your initial goals were for your client in the first place, as the strategy and tactics you implement should be tailored to support those objectives so that ROI is actually something pretty easy to measure, not something that involves either algorithms or advanced theory to work.
For example, perhaps you’ve secured a story about your client on the front page of The Economic Times. If your client’s goal for this effort was to increase their marketshare by 50%, chances are this single placement isn’t going to do it. However, if the client’s goal was to simply “raise our profile,” then getting this placement (and following up by securing reprints which could then be shared with the customers, supporters and other key target publics) would seem an appropriate step in the right direction.
He also mentioned that the other thing to keep in mind is that public relations are NOT just media relations. Sometimes it’s a counseling function that might involve working with Human Resources, Risk Management, Sales, etc., about sensitive issues that could have an enormous bearing on the image and profitability of your client organization. This sort of work is often not given the credit it is deserves because it often doesn’t result in anything immediately tangible. In other words, if you are teaching someone to drive and you point out a pothole so the driver misses it, well…nothing happened, did it? Your client is still driving and expected to be doing just that. Of course, if you DIDN’T point out the pothole and now your client has a broken mudguard, that’s a “return on investment”, you do NOT want.
I wonder if it is so easy to understand as he explained it to me and more importantly to implement, though I personally agree that going forward we will have to align our activities with clients’ business goals in-order to deliver results that makes a real impact on the bottom line of the company.
To sum it up, I feel the best way to determine your value as a PR practitioner is going to depend on how much RESEARCH (the foundation of good PR) you did in preparing your PR campaign to isolate measurable, perceptible, agreed-upon-with-the-client goals and objectives so you can say, yes, we were successful, we did achieve what our client wanted.
What’s your view… Do let me know on richa.seth30@gmail.com

While I was pondering over what I could possibly write for the forthcoming issue of PR Next, a colleague recently raised the issue of “ROI.” That’s not a nouveau way of spelling “Roy,” but “Return on Investment.” It’s a particularly sticky wicket for us folks in public relations because, as Vikram had brought it out in his last article, public relations is plagued by a lack of respect that finds its roots in

(1) the fact that you don’t need a license to practice PR,

(2) PR’s poor and often inaccurate depiction in mass media/TV/movies and

(3) nobody knows quite what PR is (A press release? Phone sales? An abbreviation for Puerto Rico?)

Depending upon the corporate culture your typical PR professional finds him/herself, trying to prove the value of public relations can be a challenge. There are those who try to equate PR to advertising as in measuring off the column inches of a story placed in a newspaper or magazine, or measuring the time of a TV news segment, then determining the equivalent cost if it were a paid advertising spot and saying, “This story would have cost you Rs. 5,00,000 if it were an ad,” you get the idea.

There are a myriad of problems with this approach. One, you can’t control editorial content like you can in an ad, so if you get a story placed for a client, is the ENTIRE story just about your client? There can be just a small mention or simply a quote in a 400 CC article. And what if what is said isn’t all that complimentary?

I took these questions to a noted industry veteran, who said that determining ROI should not be something that the PR person contemplates after completing the promotional campaign, getting the news story placed, etc. ROI should be predicated upon what your initial goals were for your client in the first place, as the strategy and tactics you implement should be tailored to support those objectives so that ROI is actually something pretty easy to measure, not something that involves either algorithms or advanced theory to work.

For example, perhaps you’ve secured a story about your client on the front page of The Economic Times. If your client’s goal for this effort was to increase their marketshare by 50%, chances are this single placement isn’t going to do it. However, if the client’s goal was to simply “raise our profile,” then getting this placement (and following up by securing reprints which could then be shared with the customers, supporters and other key target publics) would seem an appropriate step in the right direction.

He also mentioned that the other thing to keep in mind is that public relations are NOT just media relations. Sometimes it’s a counseling function that might involve working with Human Resources, Risk Management, Sales, etc., about sensitive issues that could have an enormous bearing on the image and profitability of your client organization. This sort of work is often not given the credit it is deserves because it often doesn’t result in anything immediately tangible. In other words, if you are teaching someone to drive and you point out a pothole so the driver misses it, well…nothing happened, did it? Your client is still driving and expected to be doing just that. Of course, if you DIDN’T point out the pothole and now your client has a broken mudguard, that’s a “return on investment”, you do NOT want.

I wonder if it is so easy to understand as he explained it to me and more importantly to implement, though I personally agree that going forward we will have to align our activities with clients’ business goals in-order to deliver results that makes a real impact on the bottom line of the company.

To sum it up, I feel the best way to determine your value as a PR practitioner is going to depend on how much RESEARCH (the foundation of good PR) you did in preparing your PR campaign to isolate measurable, perceptible, agreed-upon-with-the-client goals and objectives so you can say, yes, we were successful, we did achieve what our client wanted.

What’s your view… Do let me know on richa.seth30@gmail.com

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