The Value of PR: Validating a Marketing Budget (Part 2)

At REED, one of our top core values is creating measurable results for our clients. Finding a way to translate the qualitative to the quantitative is not always an easy task when talking about public relations campaigns. In Part 1 of our ‘Value of PR’ series we recently talked about how to put the results of your PR outreach into quantifiable numbers by setting benchmarks based on your business goals.

But once you have those numbers, how can you use them to show the value PR brings and lock in more marketing dollars for future projects?

As we emerge from COVID-19 and 2021/2022 marketing plans and budgets are finalized, it’s crucial to communicate those numbers to the people making budgetary and business decisions. To do that we need to answer one question: How does PR add to the bottom line?

It’s up to us marketers to show the ROI in terms they understand. The key goes back to ensuring your PR campaign’s goals align with the company’s overarching business goals.

Set up a quick scenario for your team. Imagine we’re sitting down three years from now, and things are exactly how you want them. What does that look like?

Often, leadership may not even have a clear vision of what success looks like. By beginning with the end in mind, not only can you see where PR and marketing can help achieve results, but you also help the company see clearly. Deciphering what’s really important by understanding the company’s objectives and business goals will allow all facets of the business to function more effectively, including marketing and PR.

With an idea your leadership team’s vision of success, consider the following to show the value in your PR budget.

Demonstrate the impact of PR

We often see PR success with companies with limited resources to advertise to reach a variety of markets or audiences. For example, a client may have the budget to advertise their consumer product in select smaller markets but not enough budget for more expensive markets like New York, LA or Atlanta.

A strategic PR campaign allows us to get specific—and highly targeted— by earning media placements and engaging a community of consumers. We can craft precise messaging that drives true value and revenue toward the end goal that is educational and engaging rather than salesy or easily passed over.

Educating those making budgetary decisions about what can be achieved through a strategic, well-executed PR campaign will help validate the budget for which you are asking.

Success visioning and realism

Sometimes public relations, advertising and marketing get a bad rap for ignoring budgets and encouraging over-the-top activations that result in little more than buzz. We get it. While we’re creatives and we love a good stunt as much as the next person, your marketing/PR spend has to be justifiable.

Success comes when your creative ideas and the costs to execute them successfully align. If, at the end of the day, your cost per customer acquisition or conversion is so high that you’ve lost money, all the buzz in the world won’t make up for it.

To be certain there’s alignment between your execution and your end goal, begin with that goal in mind. Understanding the increase in sales, number of new customers you’re striving for or other benchmarks will ensure you stay within the lanes when it comes to getting in front of those customers.

However, don’t limit yourself and your ideas before they’ve even been created. I recommend imagining you have unlimited budget to begin with and adapting from there. Just make sure you put pen to paper at the end of the process. Who knew creative budgeting could be another fun addition to brainstorm sessions?

Ego Boosters vs Business Drivers

Who doesn’t like to see their name in headlines? By now we all know and believe that not all press is good press, but we’ll take that one step further. Press coverage that isn’t targeted or strategic is a waste of time and budget.

In a strategic and comprehensive marketing and public relations plan, you should be able to tie each media placement or tactic directly to a business goal and end deliverable. If not, the rest is just fluff and doesn’t help you justify that budget.

Put your money where your mouth is

Of course, PR and marketing efforts have to actually earn the results set forth at the beginning of a project. Showing that you are utilizing your existing budget effectively is key to getting it increased for future campaigns.

Rather than waiting until the end of a project to share results with your leadership team, report progress regularly and be willing to change your approach if you aren’t hitting the metrics you set out to. Setting goals and walking away is a surefire way to get budgets cut when a campaign is underperforming and you don’t realize it until it’s too late to change course. Yes, stopping a campaign midway is a headache, but it’s better than showing poor returns on your company’s investment in a post-mortem report.

Much of validating a PR and marketing budget stems from good communication between the marketing team and the leadership execs making the budgetary and business decisions. Always aim to align goals, a realistic vision for success and show that your efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line. Tangible results will lead to tangible dollars for your next campaign.