How to Measure ROI in PR

Among the most common questions we are asked is how can one measure the ROI of the PR activity. 

Other functions of marketing like advertising, sales, social media marketing etc can be assigned a number and a value in terms of return on investments. However, in PR, much of the returns are intangible. There is no effective way – yet – to measure how much have you actually benefited from the entire PR campaign. 

PR is meant to establish the brand credibility, validate the brand and create awareness. None of these can be truly measured.

The current, globally accepted measurement metric is AVE – Advertising Value Equivalent. 

In other words, we measure the size of the article published and how much it would have potentially cost to take out an ad of the same size/space. Then we use a multiplier ‘x’ because a PR story is ‘x’ times more valuable than an ad. 

The multiplier figure varies according to each country, going up to 40 in some places. India hasn’t changed the multiplier in decades. 

With the arrival of new media and a booming rise in on-line media, this metric feels inadequate. Advertising rates on-line are vastly different. And the ‘shelf-life’ of the story is much longer. It further helps in SEO. It helps anytime anyone looks up your name. Mere AVE doesn’t even begin to compute the benefits of an on-line article. 

Measuring ROI becomes more challenging because PR is a slow process. Even if you have the coolest product, an article about it will not convince most people to buy the product immediately. It puts it in the back of their minds, and convinces them about the product. Therefore, sales is an indirect outcome of a good PR campaign.

In terms of direct measurement metrics, there are some (not entirely accurate) ways of measuring the success of a PR campaign. Note that we are saying “Success of a PR Campaign” and not simply ROI. A lot of these methods cannot be measured in terms of rupees. 

A good PR campaign can result in more visits to the brand’s website or social media pages. It can see an impact on SEO. It can help in a particular keyword being associated strongly with your brand (especially when used in other marketing campaigns at the same time). 

Instead of focusing on the number game alone, it would be better to use other formats to truly measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign. This could vary depending on your brand, but you can consult your PR Partner to establish a clear goal ahead. 

  • Seen in the right publications
    More than the number of coverages, it is important to be seen on the right platforms. What is your target audience reading? Is it possible to capture the attention of a new audience set with different kinds of stories? 
  • The Quality of Coverage
    Was the story a mere mention of the brand? Was the sentiment and tone positive, neutral or negative? Was the story an exclusive mention of the brand or were you a part of a group/industry story? If you were a part of the group, were the others bigger or smaller than you? How was the positioning? 
  • Competitor mentions vs Your brand mentions:
    This is more realistic in terms of measurement. Of course, if your competitor launches an exciting new product when you are in a ‘quiet’ period, naturally there would be more mentions of them. You can average out the mentions and understand the effectiveness of your campaign. 
  • Brand Mentions & Establishing Credibility:
    Have people begun to notice your brand more? Has the tone of the articles helped in creating a positive aura about the brand? 

PR and social media campaigns need to be strategised together to ensure a cohesiveness in communications. It also helps in monitoring your progress and growth when both these verticals are on the same track.

PR professionals are aware of the media voice, and the consumer voice. They are aware of the sentiment and the required positioning. They can help you connect and foster trust among media professionals, who are your strongest ambassadors. They can help you connect with the right influencers and thought leaders. 

Just like trust cannot be measured in terms of rupees, the effectiveness of a PR campaign and ROI can never be measured in terms of money. The benefits are intangible and long term. But if you need to put a figure on paper, AVE with a combination of above mentioned factors are the only ways, unsatisfactory as they might be.


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