How to prove the return on investment in your campaign

Affect, a PR firm, wanted to show what it had accomplished for a client. It proved it generated $1.1 million in revenue. Here’s how.

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

In public relations, measurement can be hard. Your executives are asking for the return on investment, and you won’t win points by chattering about social media shares.

It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of measuring what’s easy, says Sandra Fathi, president of Affect. Yet that’s not the way to earn that bonus you were hoping for.

“Does any CEO talk about how many tweets they got?” Fathi says in a Ragan Training session, “Show Me the Money: PR measurement metrics that impress the C-suite.”

“Do they say, ‘We have 7,000 “likes” on Facebook?’ No, because those are not business metrics. So we have to learn to talk in the language that they understand and that they value.”

The secret to impressing your leaders is to prove as close a relationship as possible between sales and your PR efforts.

Avoid ‘vanity metrics’

There’s a good reason advertising value equivalent has been discredited, Fathi says. That old metric compared column inches to the cost of ads in a given publication, but it ignores the difference between a story about a criminal investigation of your chief executive and a glowing review of your new product. Besides, these days, native advertising enables you to buy your way into almost any publication in one way or another.

The trouble with social media metrics is that they were invented with the platform in question, and they have nothing to do with business metrics, Fathi says.

“We didn’t count tweets before Twitter,” she says. “We didn’t count followers before Facebook.”

The problem is not seen solely on social media. Any number of organizations have a metric about how many press releases its PR staff puts out a year. “That’s activity; that’s not outcome,” Fathi says.

Isolate your results

Fathi discussed an office space company that wanted to increase leads and occupation in New York properties. Her firm was hired to help reposition the company and attract entrepreneurs and startups.

“What we had to do is isolate our results so that we could prove that these leads came from PR,” she says.

Here are a few tactics that worked:

Create YouTube videos. Though this required spending, the cost was nominal. With an outlay of a few hundred dollars, Affect helped generate viral momentum. This was cheaper than traditional advertising, and Affect could demographically target viewers and figure out exactly who should see these ads, Fathi says. This also allowed the campaign to be fine-tuned, based on who clicked.

Establish a dedicated toll-free number. The number was given in every article, TV interview or media opportunity, which allowed Affect to prove just which calls it could claim credit for.

Host onsite events. Figures showed that 75 percent of those who looked around an office space signed a contract. “The No. 1 driver of someone signing a new contract was taking a tour of the facility,” Fathi says. The goal, then, was to get them in the doors. Affect hosted onsite events for authors and other speakers. The agency poured out a little wine and beer, served some cheese and suggested that guests take a tour while they were on the premises.

Ask. When people call or fill out an application, find out how they heard about you. Formerly, the company didn’t ask people, “Did you read an article about us? Did you see a YouTube video about us?” Fathi says. Under the new system, that data were collected.

Use tracking links, landing pages and mini-sites. Affect used special tracking links in everything it sent out, so it knew the clicks came specifically from the PR campaign. It also created landing pages for the New York campaign, so it had access to all the data (rather than begging IT at the company headquarters).

Hand out coupons. Affect used promotions and coupons that people could get only at one of its PR events. This “set up the tripwires to be able to capture” the data, Fathi said.

Results? In 90 days, Affect could prove it had generated 732 leads, more than twice the goal of 350. This resulted in an 11 percent increase in web traffic for New York City and $1.1 million in revenue.

Best of all, Affect could show the return on investment.

“They were so impressed with that, they asked us to roll out the campaign to five other cities,” Fathi said.


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