Public relations is a qualitative business. We create campaigns and initiatives that change the way people feel to build brand loyalty, increase awareness and ultimately drive sales. But “how people feel” doesn’t always get approved in budget meetings. We need to translate the qualitative into something quantitative – something measurable – to justify the investment and lock in funds for future marketing campaigns.
To understand the value of PR, we should first look at the difference between cost and value. Cost is well defined. It is the expense to your brand to secure PR services or execute a campaign. Value is more difficult to describe largely because it is perceived. What is valuable to one company may not be valuable to another.
Value in PR and marketing can be defined by what is most important or useful to a brand’s bottom line at a moment in time.
This means the metrics used to evaluate PR and marketing efforts often vary by company based on what the brand – and the company’s leadership – value most. For some executives, value comes in the form of seeing their name in the newspaper once a month. For others, it may be getting a certain number of new client calls each quarter. This is why it is crucial to understand a brand’s business goals and to set valuation metrics that align with those goals before launching a campaign or even searching for a PR partner.
In media relations, one way to quantify results is by looking at audience numbers and calculating the advertising value of coverage based on what an outlet typically charges for an ad of the same size or length. Of course, there are many other factors that should be accounted for such as sentiment (how much of the article or segment was positive or negative?) and lifespan (was this a one-time TV segment or a feature in a magazine that will sit on coffee tables and in dentist offices for months to come?), but ad value can give us a hard number that business executives can sometimes more easily wrap their heads around.
Quantifying PR efforts should also be fluid as campaigns and business goals change. The metrics that make sense this year may be different next year or even quarter to quarter. They should certainly change based on the initiatives you are rolling out. Measurable objectives could be a number of media hits, new client leads, email sign-ups or social media audience reach. Establish these metrics before a campaign begins so you know what marks you have to hit and what value they hold.
When you begin with the end in mind, you are more likely to see success––or be able to course-correct along the way if you aren’t seeing the results you hoped for.
Setting specific valuation metrics and aligning results with business goals is how we can turn PR and marketing efforts into something quantitative and measurable. It is easy to see the value that PR brings when the goals are based on what is most valuable to the brand itself.