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How To Evaluate the ROI of PR

Date published: November 13, 2023
Last updated: March 7, 2024

Digital PR is an important part of a comprehensive growth marketing strategy. Healthy public relations campaigns build credibility for your brand. 

But how do you know if your digital PR campaign is working? What results can you measure? What KPIs should you set? 

If you’ve ever struggled to evaluate the ROI (return on investment) of your PR efforts, you’re not alone. An educated growth marketer with up-to-date knowledge, tools, and techniques might be able to gauge if your PR is working (and, if not, what tweaks it requires to get back on track). However, there are some aspects that you can discover all on your own. 

What Is Digital PR?

It’s hard to measure something that you don’t understand. So, what is digital PR? A digital PR campaign consists of online tactics that purposefully gain media coverage.  

This could be a mention to one of your resources on a media outlet like Forbes or Entrepreneur. It could be a brand mention in a niche industry publication, too, or a guest appearance on a podcast. This strategic, unpaid placement is something growth marketers refer to as earned media. To be clear, you can manufacture an earned mention (such as agreeing to co-host a podcast episode or writing a guest post with a byline). However, it is only considered “earned” when you do so without reimbursement.

The result of earned media placements is better brand awareness and trust. Your reputation with consumers rises as they see you mentioned by credible third-party sources. This cultivates consumer trust and teaches your target audience that your company is a viable solution to their pain points.

The Need for Continuous Digital PR

PR outreach isn’t a one-time deal. It needs to be consistent over time. As you gather various mentions via different insights across a variety of publications and mediums, it sends a multi-faceted message that your brand isn’t just a flash in the pan. It is a sustainable and trusted source with answers that maintain their value over time. 

It requires consistent investment, effort, and creativity as your team and growth marketing partners seek to keep your digital PR messaging continuous and relevant. As with any ongoing business expense, it’s important to know that your PR strategy is paying off.  

The question is, how can you quantify the ROI of your PR?

Evaluating the ROI of PR

Marketing typically has an obvious metric. You get traffic from search engine optimization. Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is easy to calculate. You can measure CTR (click-through rate) on an email.

When it comes to PR, many naturally connect the activity to referrals. They want to know how many leads they generated from each mention. However, that isn’t the goal of digital PR, and you’ll be sorely disappointed if that is what you hope comes out of it. Referrals tend to be more closely connected to things like affiliate and influencer marketing, where you can easily track each occurrence. 

When it comes to public relations, then, what can you measure to calculate the success or failure of a digital PR campaign? The key to coming up with a viable KPI is to remember the goal here: to build credibility. In a sense, the fact that a third party is willing to use your brand as a positive example for something is invaluable.

At least, the value feels incalculable. The truth is, though, there are subtle ways to get a better idea of the worth that your PR credibility is generating. Here are four benchmarks and metrics you can use to measure your PR ROI:

1. Increasing Credibility

This first one is a straightforward way to measure brand awareness as generated by digital PR. Are people recognizing your brand?

Of course, we’re not talking about just anyone. It’s great if your friends or co-workers know your logo when it pops up. But that doesn’t mean much. 

You want to know if your target audience recognizes who you are and the value you offer. Do consumers and investors know who you are? Do you get a positive response when you’re brought up in industry conversation? The answer can help you gauge if your PR is working.

2. Improved Ranking

Effective digital PR enhances industry-specific elements of your brand. It creates a buzz around your business in the areas that matter.

When done well, this should increase the way you rank for branded search terms. A well-known horse farm, for instance, should show up higher on a search for “horse riding lessons.”

As you engage in digital PR, see if you’re ranking for more branded terms and showing up more in the SERPs. This is a good indicator that things are working.

3. Consistent Mentions

One of the most important metrics is measuring the consistency of your mentions. What is the frequency and quantity of your mentions across the web? 

To understand this, you need to engage in media monitoring. This is similar to monitoring your reputation online.

However, in this case, you aren’t just reviewing how the interweb is talking about you in general. You’re looking for consistent positive messaging (much of which comes from deliberate PR attempts you initiated).

4. Stronger Marketing Material

Another way you can ensure you’re optimizing the ROI of each PR mention is by maximizing the mention after it publishes. You can do this by:

  • Creating an “as seen on” bar on your website with links to mentions.
  • Sharing mentions on company social media and platforms.
  • Linking to mentions in your email signature with a “check out my recent mention in” lead-in text.
  • Writing a summary on-site preview of the mention to post on your blog and then linking it to the original post.

By measuring things like consistency, credibility, and ranking, you can gain relatively specific insights into the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your digital PR efforts. In addition, investing in thoughtful, targeted, and efficient repurposing of content ensures that you have the best bet of making every digital PR effort count.

Backing PR Initiatives With Data

Growth marketing is a data-driven activity. It seeks to remove “gut instinct” from the equation whenever possible. 

With something like PR, it can be hard to quantify how effective or ineffective your public relations activities are at any given moment. However, by measuring consistency in your mentions, maximizing each occurrence through complimentary growth marketing techniques, and investing in the right digital PR right partner, you can create a measurable metric to gauge your PR success.

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