While the acronym ‘PR’ is often used to suggest many things it isn’t just a ‘Press Release.’ In the broadest sense, Public Relations is any means by which an organization or individual engages one or more audiences (their ‘public,’ including related industry media) in an effort to create awareness and/or provide education about anything, from a person or product, to an initiative to a company in general.
Using PR is often said to be a ‘good value for the expenditure’ because PR doesn’t have the same inherent costs as other forms of marketing. But before we can determine just how to get the most out of an investment in a PR program, we have to first understand what PR is.
For the most part, when people say ‘PR’ what they usually mean is Media Relations. And all that is, is the facilitation of an information exchange between media outlets that desire/require information and the organizations with appropriate information to give.
Ultimately, the power of PR lies in the fact that the information is being presented in an unbiased way. The audience sees the media as a trustworthy source that presents information simply to inform, not to satisfy someone else’s corporate ‘needs.’ I can already hear you saying, ‘But...’ Yes, we’ve heard stories of ‘if you advertise, we’ll run the article’. And sure this happens... but not nearly as often as some folks think.
The truth is, it is in the media’s own best interest to provide information in an honest unbiased manner. And, if as communicators we can get pertinent information into their hands, then not only are the ethics of the media upheld, but the messages we want to deliver – be it individual, product, service or brand – reaches the intended audiences.
The very value of having the media act as an unbiased conduit for organizations to get their key messages to specific audiences is also a risk. The simple fact that the media cannot (or should not) play favourites means that not all information can or will be used. Investing in PR, therefore, has the potential for tremendous returns but carries a certain risk.
The best Return On Investment (ROI) on PR is achieved when the messages that a company wants to deliver are either in-line with what the media wants to talk to their audience about, or is of such real importance (as opposed to perceived) that it cannot be ignored.
With the right information going into the hands of targeted media, the chances of success are far greater.
Measuring this success is another critical factor to determining the ROI of PR.
Just as not all sales calls land a sale, not every PR pitch to the media will result in a story. Keeping tabs on the hit-to-miss ratio in PR is a good way to judge the quality of the information going out to the media. Too many misses and there is a good chance that the messages need to be re-thought.
Once the hits land there are other things to look for to judge success. Great hits carry the right tone – product, corporate or individual mention, key message delivery, presentation of an individual or the company as an expert and leader in the field, case studies, third-party corroboration and strong quotes.
And the success doesn’t stop there. The results of a well-executed PR campaign that is linked to other marketing efforts can be used to provide fodder for other initiatives. Case studies can become testimonial ads. Industry-focused articles can become solution-oriented sales pieces. News releases can become content for e-newsletters. If the story is valuable for PR purposes, it’s also valuable for other marketing tactics.
But there is still another way that PR provides ROI. It builds relationships. In this case, these relationships are built with the media – and the media who are known in their areas of expertise are indeed influencers. Investing in these relationships is very important. If care is taken to get the media the information they want in a way that they can use, then they will turn to those who provide the information as ‘go-to’ sources down the road. And that means your story and key messages get preference over your competitions’. That’s real ROI.