What type of PR gets the best ROI?

There’s no point in being in PR if you don’t make money, being creative is all well-and-good, but it’s the results that matter. As Dan Humphreys, director of content at Sports Marketing agency Fast Track says: “Effective PR work should always deliver a strong ROI against smart objectives. Otherwise, what was it for? Being results-focused isn’t the enemy of creativity and ambition. Instead, the emphasis should be on original strategies in well-planned campaigns, aligned with the overall client goals and captured in meaningful, measurable objectives.”

It is vital to add value, not just deliver a reasonable return on investment, adds Humphreys: “The real ambition for a PR consultant today should be to think about not just hitting rational ROI targets, but to look at how to add and create value through PR work. It’s incumbent on the agency to be as smart, ambitious and original in what they do to get the results that make a difference for a client. Going further to add true value is the type of PR work that will always, always deliver the very best ROI.”

In order to meet, and overshoot targets, first of all you have to work out what these are. What does the brand want to achieve? Helen Campbell, consultant at agency Illuminate Communications says: “What do you (the client) want to change, and how can we make that happen for you? So if a client asks to be in women’s consumer titles or in-flight magazines, then ask why... trace the brief right back to the 'problem' and work out how to solve it.” Campbell says it is important to focus on achieving the ultimate business goal.

Once you know what the message needs to be, the key to success is to broadcast it using the best medium. As a broadcast agency, Shout! Communications naturally believes that video has the greatest power to deliver [see case study below]. Although Keren Haynes, co-owner, points out that a film only helps build a brand if it starts off with the right goals: “Every client has different expectations, so it’s vital to view and judge each project individually. In some cases brand awareness is the most important factor, whereas in others, it’s that crucial information is widely shared. The key is messaging and it is our role as PROs to identify them and the best means of conveying them.”

Five top tips

In his book, The Meaningful Brand, Nigel Hollis describes how strong brands make more money. Here are five principles he lists to help drive financial growth:

1. (Re)-discover and stay true to the brand’s purpose. Sometimes this means finding out what the brand originally stood for and going back to this, sometimes this means changing the brand’s purpose.

2. Critically examine the experience the brand delivers. Profitable brands meet (and ideally exceed) people’s expectations.

3. Make sure the brand resonates. The sweet spot for any brand is found at the intersection of what the brand stands for and the motivations and desires of its target audience.

4. Make a difference. Don’t be different for difference’s sake, but give customers a reason to choose the brand and justify its price premium.

5. Amplify across all touch points. Work to build a consistent impression of the brand across every point of contact between the consumer and the brand.

Case studies

What works in practice?

Ked Mather, communications manager, at credit card corporation MasterCard UK& I, describes how face-to-face communication gets great results for MasterCard:

“Speaker opportunities can be a great return on investment. Start by establishing clear objectives for what you would like the output to be, understand the audience you wish to target and then source and brief your relevant company spokesperson who fits the bill. Many events can be free of charge, yet offer a platform to communicate to potential customers, media and business partners. At MasterCard, we are always on the lookout for exhibitions and conferences with specific focus on sectors like retail and mobile as we want to feature in these spaces.”

“We also realise that the audience want to learn from us rather than get a hard-sell, so we try to be as creative in our approach to the presentation as possible. The effort to plan for such a speaker opportunity in this way is necessary if it is to be successful and resonate with the audience. It is important to plan ahead and execute them properly on the day.”

Keren Haynes, co-owner of broadcast PR agency Shout! Communications, discusses an online video campaign for the Department of Health:

“When we worked with the Department of Health we were responsible for getting across medically approved information to parents with new-born babies in a series of short, online videos. In this case, it was necessary for us to come up with a strategy that would encourage the viewer to digest all the information, without compromising the detail of the message. The videos were placed online at NHS Choices and distributed to parents who signed up to receive them as part of the ISP service.  About 11 per cent of all expecting and new parents in England are ISP subscribers and open and click-through rates for the emails compare very favourably against email marketing benchmarks, with approximately half of subscribers opening emails they have received and nearly a third clicking on links to further content.”

Written by Daney Parker

Creative Moment Awards 2021