PR and marketing teams continue to struggle to demonstrate their value to C-level executives and to find the best metrics to show how they contribute to business objectives. What’s needed is one killer metric. A recent survey of more than 400 senior executives by Proof Analytics found that:
- 96% said their marketing and PR teams were “unwilling or unable” to prove return on investment.
- 94% said they had little or no reliable understanding of the quantifiable business value actually delivered by marketing.
- 97% said they had little or no idea how much money they should be investing in marketing and PR.
- 72% said that they expected that 2019 marketing budgets would be cut by 10% or more.
Perhaps ironically, the executives emphasized that they understand that high-quality marketing and communications can impact business value. Their frustration stems from the inability of their marketing and communications teams to embrace full accountability for ROI and business value.
Finance Teams Control PR & Marketing Measurement
In a new trend, business leaders are asking finance departments to assume control over measurement and analytics of marketing performance. The rational: financial guys are numbers guys; marketing and PR guys aren’t.
“The Proof survey is a giant wake-up call for marketing and PR teams, and their agencies too,” states Michelle Killebrew, head of global performance marketing at CA Technologies’ DevOps business unit in the press release. “Business leaders want to know that every marketing and PR dollar is helping their sales teams sell more product to more customers, faster and more profitably than sales could do if marketing was not there.”
PR should abandon its emphasis on metrics having to do with reach and awareness and seek measurements closer to sales, argues Paul Holmes, founder and chair of The Holmes Group. Awareness in the single most common objective, but awareness is rarely actually measured. “Instead, good old-fashioned clippings—volume of coverage, reach, opportunities-to-see—are treated as a proxy for awareness,” Holmes states.
PR’s emphasis on awareness metrics may be due to the “fear of finding out,” Holmes says Marketers and PR professionals worry that measurement will show they do not have an impact.
The inability to prove value has a direct impact on PR’s salaries and budgets. “With little understanding of its value and the inability to prove it, brands view demands for increased communications budgets with a hefty dose of skepticism,” states Wendy Marx, president of Marx Communications, in Business 2 Community. “This leaves us with one very important task ahead of us: Prove PR value beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
Steps to Prove the Value of PR
To prove the value of PR, Marx and other experts recommend:
First set goals for PR that mirror company goals. Without goals in place before launching a campaign., metrics are merely numbers.
Invest in good analytics software. Google Analytics can report information on the company’s website traffic but a media monitoring subscription service is required for a comprehensive PR measurement.
Determine what metrics are key to proving PR’s worth. Metrics may vary between industries and companies, but a few remain constant. For website metrics, Marx suggests: new users, returning users and bounce rates. Social media interactions, especially the number of people who click on social media posts, can reveal the most effective strategies.
Remember mobile. Given the growing popularity of mobile devices, it’s essential for PR to place a priority on mobile, Marx adds. Seek to understand:
- What devices your audience uses and how PR campaigns appear on those devices.
- If you should invest in a mobile-friendly design when creating campaigns.
- If you should include a mobile app as part of a campaign.
Conversions, such as downloading an ebook, can produce sales leads. “Initially, it’s normal for people to check out your brand and not take further action,” Marx says. “But if you see that a lot of people are clicking on your campaign but very few people are actually converting, then you need to find out where the problem is.”
Monitor Your Brand Across all Channels
PR pros can measure website traffic gained from referrals from media placements, but an advanced media measurement service can report meaningful metrics such as share of voice, brand sentiment and message resonance.
“Monitoring your brand’s coverage across all media channels is integral to evaluating the success of a PR campaign,” says Kate O’Sullivan, owner of the ADPR.co.uk PR agency.
Some metrics to monitor include the number of articles secured in target titles and audience reached. In addition to conducting quantitative measurement, consider qualitative outcomes to analyze the content of the coverage, Sullivan adds.
The killer metric across all departments in any company is sales revenue. To prove its value conclusively, PR and marketing should design communications programs in ways to demonstrate their activities have increased leads in the sales funnel or, better yet, actually increased sales. A unique URL in a media placement about a product with a unique landing page is one way to attribute a sale to specific PR or marketing activities. A unique call-in number to the sales call-center is another way. Trace all those calls through to actual sales activity – and include the lifetime value of each customer that each PR or marketing activity brought in. Those are numbers that executives understand and truly value.
Bottom Line: C-suite executives question the ability of PR and marketing teams to accurately quantify their business value. Frustrated at the lack of measurement, company executives may slash PR and marketing budgets. Measurement experts urge communications professions to wake-up to the need for more sophisticated PR and marketing measurement.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.