ROI on PR: is there a magic number for proving the value of PR?

It is one of the most common questions we get asked – how will you measure success of our program?

While public relations at times can be more art than science, it is possible, and we would say vital, to measure the outcome of your efforts.

First of all, it is worth mentioning what measurement is not. Measurement is not clip counting or Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs).

AVEs have been used in the past to measure the outputs of a PR program. Effectively AVEs attempt to quantify the value of earned media (PR) by valuing it based on the cost of paid media (advertising) based on the size/position off the coverage in that media outlet. A multiplier is then applied (assuming earned media has greater credibility than advertising) which is a discretionary number that can be x1.5, x3 or even x9.

Honner – and most of the PR industry – rejects the use of AVEs for a number of reasons:

  • PR and advertising are two very different things. PR is earned media, it has greater authority that provides a form of third party validation
  • Media coverage can be positive, neutral or negative. Advertising is positive brand positioning placed where and when you decide
  • AVEs only calculate the equivalent cost of buying advertising; they do not measure the impact or effect

A better way to measure

The PR industry body (Public Relations Institute of Australia) in recent weeks has released a new comprehensive Model for Research, Measurement and Evaluation of Public Relations.

This framework aims to help practitioners more thoroughly and confidently demonstrate the business value being delivered by PR activity. It also reinforces the importance of communications activity being aligned to business goals and directly linked to SMART communications objectives.

Working from left to right, each program starts with research and strategic planning (inputs). It is then straightforward enough to measure activity undertaken (media releases, newsletters, events etc) and the outputs of this activity (number of media clips, tone/sentiment, share of voice). This is often where many end the measurement process. But the goal is to keep going toward the right and measure outcomes (awareness, engagement, satisfaction) and ultimately quantify impact on business results (sales, profit, share price).

Using multiple data sources to build a dashboard of key data points, gives an at-a-glance-snapshot that is most effective in engaging the C-Suite.

It takes more time and investment the further you move along this continuum. The PRIA recommends assigning 10% of your budget to evaluation.  Digital media and technology gives us more tools, but effective measurement also requires a clear strategy with measurable objectives agreed up front.

What the above framework also reminds us is evaluation (and research) is an ongoing, circular process. It should be used to assess the outcomes of a campaign but also a tool for ongoing iterative improvement of the program.

But is there a single number?

If it is not AVE, then what is that number to benchmark our success in media?

If it is only media you are interested in then there is one number. It’s called: Cost per Contact or Cost Per Opportunity to See.

Similar to the way marketers measure cost per acquisition, this number shows how much it cost the business to reach its audience.

This number is derived by dividing total reach (the cumulative circulation of the publications where articles appeared) divided by the budget spend.

While in some ways a crude measure based solely on media hits, we see it as a relevant alternative for communications teams who need to report a benchmark number to the C-Suite each month, quarter or year.

Honner is constantly looking to refine and improve its approach to measurement and welcomes robust discussions to ensure we are able to clearly demonstrate the strong value that we know a multi-channel communications program can achieve when delivered effectively.

Pitching business stories to international press. Is it worth it?

The first instinct of businesses seeking media exposure is often to pitch their story to Australian publications. That’s only natural, especially if most of the firm’s customers are domestically based. However international media can be a valuable forum for the right company with the right story.

Over the past few years, various international publications such as the New York TimesGuardian and Huffington Post have established bureaus in Australia, following in the footsteps of earlier moves by The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, reflecting a growing interest in stories from “Down Under” and making it easier to contact reporters directly to pitch ideas.

To be sure, it can be harder to pitch a business story to international media than to a local publication, especially if your company name isn’t Rio Tinto or BHP Billiton. Let’s face it, they’ve a lot more stories to choose from, a world of stories in fact. So why make the effort? Here’s five reasons:

1)    Reach overseas customers, partners and investors

Reaching an international audience is the most obvious advantage. Do you have or want clients or customers overseas? Looking to form partnerships with offshore businesses or source funding from international investors? The Wall Street Journal has more than 2 million print and digital subscribers predominantly throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe, and the New York Times has 2.2 million in digital subscribers alone. That’s a lot of potential deals.

2)    Lay foundations for overseas expansion

If you’re looking to establish operations in a new country, an article in an international publication is a chance to alert potential customers, clients or investors.
It could also be used as a tool to outline your intentions and prepare the groundwork for a positive community and political response in that country before the agenda firms around your plans, especially if you need regulatory approval.

3)    Positioning your business in the global field

As a rule, international publications prefer big-picture features about global trends than articles about single companies or one-off events. Inclusion in these articles is a chance to show that you are a global leader in your business niche, or at the forefront of an important international trend.

On the flipside, when companies make tough decisions like cutting staff, a broader global story can highlight their position among a suite of peers reluctantly responding to wide reaching market forces, thus garnering more community understanding for the move.

International papers thrive on these kind of trend pieces, and since the publications also have Australians subscribers, the stories will be read locally, so they’re a chance to show to a domestic audience where you fit in the big scheme of things.

4)    Escape the agenda at home

Pitching to international publications can be a way to rise above the agenda that’s occupying Australian media if it’s clouding your ability to tell your story. Sometimes local coverage of an industry gets caught up in the political issues of the day or other controversies, and it’s hard for unrelated company messaging to break through.

Many company CEOs will know the experience of hosting a press conference or agreeing to an interview on a company initiative, only to find the resulting article has been framed around his or her answer to a journalist’s question on a topical local issue.

Often these local controversies are of less concern to international media who will be more inclined to focus on aspects of the story that are relevant globally.

5)    Adding weight to your message

International newspapers are seen to some extent as independent global commentators, looking in to Australia from the outside. This can add weight to your message. Perhaps you are arguing for regulatory change in your industry. Coverage in an international publication may bolster political support. It wouldn’t be the first time a politician has waved a copy of the Wall Street Journal article on the floor of parliament to back his or her position on an issue.

More broadly, having a story about your business run in the international media is to some extent a sign of status. Readers know you’ve had to pip countless other potential stories from around the world to the post on any given day.  Similarly, for executives looking to reinforce their position as thought leaders, appearing as a commentator in major international publications can elevate their roles as experts or authorities on an issue.

(* Rebecca Thurlow worked as a journalist at the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires for more than a decade. She now writes financial and investment content for Honner’s clients. )

How to be a standout PR grad: Four tips for surviving and thriving in your first few months

Life after university is scary. You’re thrust into the world with a certificate, a massive debt, and the knowledge that you are supposed to succeed at “adulting”. Thankfully, a well-structured LinkedIn profile led to Honner seeking me out for a graduate role, and after closing the book on uni life, I started a new chapter in Sydney. While I was incredibly lucky to skip the anxiety-inducing applications process, my first three months as a grad have been a steep learning curve. So here are my top four tips for surviving and thriving at grad life.

1;    Embrace the power of networks – As the saying goes, “it’s all about who you know, not what you know”. While that isn’t entirely true (see points 2 and 3) the power of networking shouldn’t be underestimated.

As I mentioned, I was recruited through LinkedIn for my current role at Honner. That just goes to show people are out their looking FOR YOU. In public relations (PR), we are advising our clients every day about the importance of LinkedIn and how to maximise its potential amongst their networks. Therefore, to stand out as a budding grad, your LinkedIn profile should be shipshape, with an extensive network; an up-to-date, well-written bio; and a professional headshot.

As a marathon winner doesn’t begin their training by running 20 kilometres, your first professional networking event shouldn’t be when you’ve already got the job. Get started now! There are plenty of alumni events and professional networking associations you can get involved with to build up your confidence and personal brand. So, get networking!

2.    Remember uni is valuable – Remember when you were in school and adults would say, “enjoy it while you can, you’ll miss it someday”? The same goes for uni. Working in financial PR is a lot like being a uni student – where in addition to your daily tasks you need to become a mini-expert in various financial fields, such as super, funds management, and property. Also, instead of having four weeks to turn in a media release, you are now doing multiple “assignments” a day. The upside is now you are getting paid for it. All the soft skills you learnt in uni, such as time management, study hacks, and those fun group assignments, are going to help you succeed in a grad role, no matter what industry you may be in.  While a grad role does require a lot of hard work and dedication, it is incredibly rewarding when a colleague or client recognises a job well done.

3.    Be curiouser and curiouser – In my role, I am constantly learning, yet my curiosity about clients and the industry continues to grow. To succeed in financial PR, you need to have a genuine industry interest, be eager to learn, and thrive in a fast-paced workplace. Honner is a great environment for this. Not only do I work across a broad range of clients, but Honner also invests in my career through continuous learning opportunities. I have an amazing mentor, a supportive team, frequent lunch and learns with external industry professionals, and a personal budget to spend on any training/learning I like. Free lunch and no study debts = every ex-uni student’s dream!

4.     Enforce work-life balance – Work-life balance are words that are often overused and a concept that is often overlooked. As I constantly want to show my dedication, commitment, work ethic, and skills, this can lead to long hours. While every employee should strive for these qualities, it is vital you balance these long hours with a life outside of the office. Striking a balance ensures you deliver your highest quality work, prevents you from burning out, and means you will look forward to getting to the office each day. Living in a new city, on a grad wage, with no existing friendship circles can prove challenging for establishing a social life, but here are some easy ways to get started:

  • Join the gym/group activities – meet likeminded people each week
  • Embrace free community events – Go here, it’s free!
  • Ask your colleagues – I am lucky enough to work with people who I now call friends and who share local insights with me
  • Office socials – Honner has quarterly socials, bake and brings, and Friday drinks…just to name a few.

Starting in a new role (and in my case new city) can be scary, but there is one important thing to remember. The hardest part is over. You have got a foot in the door of a high-performance, fast-paced industry. Hopefully, you will be as lucky as me and find yourself in a team that helps you succeed and grow into the PR pro you were destined to be. #teamgrad

By Danielle Veivers