PRBC Calls Malarkey

Last week, PR Daily had a post titled “Advertising vs. PR: How to Measure the Value of Editorial Coverage.” One of the quotes from the post said:

“When assessing the monetary value of publicity, many public relations professionals use a simple equation to put a dollar value on a specific placement. This value is determined by first knowing the advertising value.”

This was just one of the points that we had an issue with while reading.

When it comes to getting publicity, everything does not have a monetary value. Most importantly, you attempt to garner exposure and positive publicity for your client’s company or product.  The value in having a front page story or feature story on a client goes way beyond money.  As a matter of fact, in my experience, I have never put a dollar figure on any potential placements.

In all honesty, putting a monetary value on any placement is a mistake. It gives a false sense of “victory.” Does paying for a 30-second spot in prime time mean you’ll be a success? No way.  Sure, you’ll get eyes on the company or product, but it by no means guarantees anything.

What about social media coverage? Well, I’m glad you asked.  We talk about ROI with social media quite often.  I like what Brian Solis said during a recent interview:

“Really what we are looking at is learning from what customers are saying, or what they are looking for, or the challenges they are having, and engaging directly, learning from that to build better programs, better products, better services.”

No where in that quote does in mention money.  You can take that to the bank.

How You Can Show PR’s Value

While we vehemently disagree with comparing PR to advertising as a method of measuring value, we still think there are plenty of ways to show value. And there are even ways to tie this back to business outcomes like sales, but as explained above, the focus with PR and social media shouldn’t always on this.

I know, I know. Everything ties back to business outcomes. I agree, but that doesn’t mean your latest media tour needs to necessarily drives sales directly. Maybe instead, an article written this week will influence a consumer who then sees an advertisement next week, a Facebook post the next and finally decides to purchase next month. But if that article were negative, would the consumer have cared about the subsequent ad and Facebook post? Probably not.

The value of PR will be different for different companies, different brands within a company and separate campaigns for those brands. There is no one-stop, silver bullet measure for PR’s value. That said, there are plenty of ways to think about your PR goals to find what how you should be showing value.

  • If your goal is awareness… Think about how you can measure whether your consumers remember your brand or your message. Can you track mentions online through Twitter? Can you give out a survey?
    • To tie it back to sales… Brainstorm how awareness may eventually affect the sales funnel. If 1,000 more consumers are now aware of your product, there are now 1,000 more potential buyers. While we can’t necessarily assume all will purchase, you can still show you’ve moved a needle.
  • If your goal is changing attitudes… How can you show whether opinions have changed? Have you been seeing more positive articles or social network mentions? Surveys can be helpful here as well if you have the resources. A more high-level approach could even be to track how conversations online are changing after your campaign.
    • To tie it back to sales… Focus on how different attitudes will affect the sales funnel. Obviously the more positive opinions there are, the more likely sales will increase. Can you show a correlation between the two?
  • If your goal is driving action… You’re in luck! This one is likely the easiest to measure because you just need to measure whether the action was completed or not. Sometimes this can be tricky, but by and large it’s easier to quantify. If you’re asking people to vote for something, how many actually did? If you want more consumers to connect with you on Facebook, how many found you?
    • To tie it back to sales… Once a consumer completes an action, you may be able to tie it back to sales easily. If you asked a consumer to use a coupon, for example, the measurement is really one and the same. Other actions like asking them to vote for you may be trickier, but look for correlations where you can.

Get creative! There are so many ways to show how YOU are valuable without using an old metric that doesn’t really mean anything. How do you show your value?

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  • Anonymous

    Rebecca & Jas –
    There is no question that the post from Ragan was foolish. One problem with posts like it is that it further diminishes the perceived value of the industry. Mainly for the reasons that you mention, but it is also a unicorn and rainbow metric that doesn’t exist. One key area to look at outside of Tweets is overall conversation share.

    Simple math there… how much are you talked about in key publications compared to your competition? Are you a thought leader or just another me too?

  • Measurement is, and always has been, the bane of public relations, but its good to see that there are still rationale people in the profession. Assuming your company or client is actually willing to invest in research and can isolate public relations from other marketing disciplines, you might also add brand preference to your list of things to measure.

    • Do you mean preference of your brand versus competitors? That would also be a great measure of PR’s potential value!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Definitely excited to know there are other folks out there who knows how to measure right.

  • What’s the link to the Ragan article?

    • Hey Ryan! The link for the article was this: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/7787.aspx

      It appears the article has been removed, though. I’m searching a few other rebuttal posts to see if I can’t find the actual link, but it may have been taken down due to the negative reactions of the community.