There is an obvious value to PR activity because you know the brands who hit the news over and over again – for the right or the wrong reasons. If it wasn’t possible to calculate the value of PR then few people would ever invest in it, but as soon as you start trying to work it out, you start to realise how complex it becomes.
Many of the clients we work with look for a specific metric for press coverage but the truth is, one single metric simply doesn’t exist. On the other hand, when it comes to investing in your brand and your business, there are many places you can spend your money. You want to ensure it’s going to the right place, and that means you need some sort of ROI metric.
How do you calculate the ROI of PR?
Typically, you would calculate ROI simply:
ROI = (cost of marketing activity) / (results of marketing activity)
The exact metric will look a little different, depending on the channel. A £10 on a Facebook Boosted Post that reaches 20 people will have an ROI of £0.50 per impression. A £500 banner advert that reaches 10,000 people will have an ROI of £0.05 per impression.
But what about marketing activities that have associated costs? Have you taken into account the design time and cost of the banner?
What about marketing activities that have lighter metrics? A Mailchimp account could cost you $9.99 a month, and if it delivers you a CTR of 2%, how do you put a value on that? If one of your team spends a whole working day a month managing the Mailchimp account, are you including that personnel cost – or the opportunity cost of what else they could be delivering?
And then you come to PR. The value of PR is critical to understanding, but it’s especially difficult to calculate an ROI metric because unlike most digital marketing, press coverage doesn’t always have visible metrics.
When a digital title says it receives 2m UMV (Unique Monthly Visitors), how do you know they haven’t fudged the numbers? How can you be sure they haven’t received 2m visitors that aren’t unique – or that they’ve reached that number of visitors in total in the website’s existence?
So can you calculate the value of PR?
Yes, but there are three different ways you can do it. Depending on your business, you may want to use just one of these, or all three.
Reach is a simple metric: it’s how many people actually see the content you’re trying to push. If your company is featured in The Telegraph, for example, your reach is the number of people who read The Telegraph on a monthly basis. You then calculate how much it would cost you to reach the same number of people through PPC across a variety of channels.
Why this method is good: starting with the number of people you are actually reaching is a great way to measure the impact of your press coverage.
Why this method is bad: it doesn’t have any nuance. A tiny mention of your brand name is measured the same as a full interview with your founder, and 2m readers in your target title is considered the same as 2m readers in a title that your target audience would never read.
2. Equivalent title advertising.
This method has a little more nuance, and focuses on the title itself that your brand has appeared in. It asks the simple question: how much would you have to pay the title through its advertising/sales team to gain the same amount of print/digital space? This gives you an immediate financial number.
Why this method is good: if you’re looking for a quick and direct answer linked to the title you’ve appeared in, this is the best way to do it.
Why this method is bad: sales teams are notorious for upping their prices, so you may over-inflate the value of some coverage to the detriment of others. It also discounts the importance of specific audiences to your company: if poodle owning men in their 50s is the most important audience to you, gaining £10k worth of coverage in a title that doesn’t hit your audience is not as valuable.
3. Brand benefit.
While this is the most intangible, it is also often the most valuable in the long term. That is because you cannot measure the specific benefits you gain from being featured by xyz titles, but you then see an uplift in other areas that you cannot ascribe to anything else. This could include:
- new inbound leads based on reading about you
- positive referrals by clients who want to align their brands with yours
- increase in SEO and digital visibility
- stronger brand reputation in your field/industry
- better conversations with potential investors
- more interest in your vacancies when you go to recruit
As you can see, these elements are all vital for the successful growth of your business.
Why this method is good: benefits across all these elements ensure your brand’s strength grows in multiple directions.
Why this method is bad: it’s almost impossible to directly tie a particular piece of press coverage to these benefits, which can get frustrating.
How are you calculating the value of PR?