How a PR agency can demonstrate meaningful and measurable ROI

by | Jul 23, 2019 | Analysis, Public Relations

When any business or individual makes an investment, they normally ask “what’s in it for me? What am I getting in return?” With public relations and communications, a common question for tech businesses is “how can it be measured, what’s the ROI?”

In a competitive tech landscape, value for money and a sound ROI have never been more important for growing businesses, and a key element of this for many start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs is the relationship with their PR agency.

The best agencies have emerged from the dark ages of measuring the success of a PR campaign against Equivalent Advertising Value or audience impressions, challenged to find more tangible, realistic and accurate ways of measuring coverage for their clients. From share of voice, to website traffic, to sentiment, there are various metrics to show the impact of our work. But underpinning all of this is a willingness on agency side to be transparent and understanding, qualities which are the foundation of a long and successful client-agency relationship.

Be transparent from the start

The first pitch or introductory meeting often sets a precedent for rest of the contract, so an open, honest approach from the off—from both sides—is important. As the client, what are your primary objectives and ultimately what do you want to get out of the PR campaign? As the agency, do you fully understand the client’s brief and are you clear on how they view success? These are two key questions to get out in the open early on.

Just as it’s the client’s responsibility to be clear with the brief, the agency must be crystal clear on how realistic and achievable these objectives are—and in what timeframe—from the moment the contract kicks off, to avoid any ambiguity on either side later on. Kicking off a campaign and media strategy without agreed objectives is, in a PR sense, the definition of madness.

Agree on a target audience

What use is an interview, news announcement, byline or case study if it won’t be read by your brand’s target audience? This is a key factor for an agency and client to establish early on, in order for the agency to deliver a PR campaign that will add true value.

As the client, feel free to tell your agency what your dream piece of coverage would be, and why. We’ll often ask our clients this question the first time we meet, as it helps us understand a) the audience they wish to communicate with, and b) their expectations—it’s then our job to manage these expectations and advise on a strategy to suit.

Tangible deliverables and KPIs, such as creating a target media list (agreed between the agency and client) and implementing a tiered system for primary and secondary media outlets, are a simple way of adding an extra dimension to delivery giving clients that extra level of value.

Provide data-driven insights

PR analytics tools, such as online and social listening services, are able to quantify the impact of PR—and inform strategy—in a way that an agency and client can understand, therefore allowing agencies to optimise their PR strategy accordingly to drive business objectives for the client.

Through taking a data-driven approach to measurement, agencies are able to analyse performance for clients and analyze:

  • Their share of voice versus competitors, comparing the number of unique mentions the brand name receives in online news sources compared to its main competitors. Agencies can take this information and tell the client where they sit in the market, and set an objective to increase this share of voice as part of their agreed KPIs (over 3 or 6 months, for example)
  • Who is engaging with/mentioning the brand on social media. Identify the most common demographic engaging with the brand and what their interests are. We can take this knowledge and, as a result, target this specific demographic with a PR strategy
  • An analysis of relevant conversations online and across social media. This tells us the most used topics and key terms which featured within conversations about topics relevant to the client online. We can tell the client how prominent they are within these conversations and the related topics & key words we should be looking to engage with in order to increase this prominence
  • The most popular content about a specific topic (measured by engagement or audience impressions). This tells us which online news articles or social media posts about topics relevant to the client received the most engagement. We can a) identify journalists/influencers or b) learn about specific content relevant to the client that proves popular online
  • Online sentiment towards a brand and the mindsets behind brand conversations. We can inform the client of overall sentiment and seek to improve it over time.

Strategic counsel

PR isn’t all about coverage volume. An agency can add a huge amount of value through being available at all times to offer strategic counsel on issues such as reputation management, crisis comms and broader marketing strategies including activity such as events, content marketing and social media. If you employ an agency, make the most of their experience and immerse them in your day-to-day operations. After all, they should be an extension of your business, not a separate entity.

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Ben Cossor
Ben Cossor is an Account Director at The PHA Group in London.

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