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How PR can prove its worth

To those who work in the industry, the value of PR is indisputable, yet as Jenny Choules, senior account director at communications agency Berkeley, says:  “How many times a day do you hear people asking ‘Do we have the budget for that? And when the PR budget is often seen as a ‘optional’ cost, it can make your heart sink when the answer is ‘no’. According to IPA Bellwether, whilst marketing budgets overall increased by 11.8%, PR spend only increased by 1.1% in Q1 2017.”

So what can PROs do to make sure that they get a larger slice of the marketing pie? Well the one-word answer that you may not want to hear is ‘data’. Choules says: “Data is a word that can fill us with dread, don’t let it. Marketing departments rely on data to prove when something has or hasn’t worked. PROs should use data-driven planning to ensure success too and don’t be afraid to make changes when something hasn’t worked.”

Social measurement
Choules particularly extols the importance of social media auditing. “Use social to your advantage. Trial things across all relevant platforms and see what works and where you can make a difference.”

Traffic report
Offering two more tips for proving PR’s worth online John Cave, managing director of media agency biddable, says that it is important to report traffic. “There is a great chance that your PR will generate traffic to your client’s website, it may even generate sales and leads, so make sure you report it. It’s most likely that anything you generate will be tracked in Google Analytics, within the Acquisition>Channels and Referrals menu.”

Link up
Of course, links will never go out of fashion, so it is vital not to forget to ask for them. Cave says: “Whenever you have content placed, make sure you ask for a link, or better yet, syndicate your content within the links already placed within. The worst you can be told is no! Make sure you speak to the client about the type of anchor text you want to be used within the link, but to be on the safe side, the best option is to just go for their brand. Building strong relevant links are important to any website and some businesses pay a fortune to have this work done. If you’re already doing this and not reporting back, you’re missing a huge opportunity to increase the value of your work.”

Measurement and data
Successfully proving the worth of your work comes down to two things says Kevin Akeroyd, CEO of software provider Cision, data and “real” measurement. He offers these four tips to set yourself up for success with a data-driven, “real” measurement conversation. 

  1. Platform approach. “Use a platform that enables you to have all data, reporting, and analytics for PR integrated seamlessly. Using separate software systems for your database, social listening, traditional media monitoring, etc. will prevent you from having your PR data in one place, and therefore holistic analysis, insights, and measurement can’t happen. This is a ‘Maslov hierarchy of needs’ basic requirement like eat or sleep. You simply cannot get there without this step.” 
  1. Integrate PR analytics with other critical systems. “Once you have your PR platform data, it doesn’t end with measuring the PR impact. Integration with key owned media systems like website (Google, Adobe), eCommerce (SFDC, Oracle), Marketing Automation (Oracle, Marketo), Adtech DMPs and DSPs, with identity and data integration, allows you not only to measure the impact of PR, but also the amplification your PR and earned media has on larger owned and paid media budgets and revenue impact drivers. We all know we have this amplification effect, time to start measuring it via integration and take credit for it!” 
  1. Vanity ain’t enough. “We need to marry traditional ‘vanity’ metrics (theoretical reach, SOV, sentiment, etc.) with the ‘hard REVENUE’ metrics (website, shopping cart and lead form conversion, email/mobile response rate increase, etc.) that our counterparts in marketing and advertising show the CEO and the CFO. Real reach, engagement, audience metrics, conversions and ultimate purchase or loyalty metrics can be tracked and attributed, we need to step up and do it. That doesn’t mean throw away traditional metrics – they have a ton of value – but we must augment them dramatically.” 
  1. Benchmark and compare. “To determine what success looks like over time, it’s necessary to benchmark your measurements to have a point of comparison. Regularly report and track not only on your results, but also the performance of your top competitors, over time-periods, across geos and business lines to show how you stack up and trend over time.”

Proving value properly in PR is no simple exercise, and it is time consuming. But bigger budgets are worth working for and that means being rigorous. As Berkeley’s Choules puts it: “Measure, measure, measure. It can’t be said enough. There’s simply no point doing any PR activity if you can’t measure the success or outcome of the campaign.”

Case study

Top tips for proving the worth of radio PR
As if measurement isn’t complicated enough, you need to take a different approach for each media. It may be one of the oldest broadcast formats, but radio listening in the UK is at record levels according to latest figures from its measuring body RAJAR. Adam Cox, CEO of radio, TV and online PR agency The Relations Group, describes how to measure the value of radio PR coverage:

  1. Compile a coverage report relevant to broadcast. Most standard coverage report templates are designed with print media in mind. A report that emphasises cuttings doesn’t really do radio any justice. Use a report that highlights audience reach, duration, time of day and differentiates between BBC and Commercial coverage.
  2. Ensure you have accurate audience reach. RAJAR updates its audience reach every quarter so check for the very latest figures.
  3. Capture live audio in addition to pre-records. Radio interviews are the most popular form of radio coverage. The interviews will be a mixture of live, pre-recorded and those that read copy. It’s crucial that for those stations that read copy that you secure the audio as aired to ensure the brand messages are delivered.
  4. Emphasise relevancy to target audience. It’s not all about reach. A regional radio station that is highly relevant to the target audience could have more value than a national station.

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