Measuring the ROI of PR Activities: 3 Central themes

As part of an ongoing conversation with some thought leader clients in the sports apparel sector, we discussed how to best measure PR activities. They were wondering whether, given another dollar, they would invest it in PR efforts or into more tactical advertising campaigns. We converged on three central themes to help shed light on the answer:

1) In apparel, authenticity is key. And Brand PR, athlete sponsorships, events, etc. are the way you earn the right to win at the top of the pyramid.  Therefore asking whether PR and Advertising drive more sales is circular: Ads won’t work unless the brand is positioned well, and having awesome brand health but zero purchase intent is a loss as well.  So the PR is a cost of doing business, rather than an optional marketing tactic.  Being a “cost of doing business” does not relieve PR of being measured; measure it against brand health or a proxy. In lieu of strong brand health metrics, use social listening data.

2) Understand your enablers. Everyone will tell you about their cool new way to tackle social media. But we’ve seen that successful social media engagement is often a downstream effect of the brand health, rather than caused by the creation of a twitter account or facebook page. If your brand is strong, people will engage with it online- regardless of your new hyperlocal targeted mobile social app. Similarly, unpaid PR coverage also happens to strong brands that have invested in their authenticity and relevance. So create a social media presence, and hire to facilitate unpaid PR coverage, but recognize that their success comes from upstream drivers.

3) And as always, capture and keep your data. PR is always a challenge because it’s so broad and diverse- the term covers everything from arena naming rights to event sponsorship, mentions in media, athlete sponsorship, logo placements, and on and on. And as such the data is always different, and almost impossible to put into a single spreadsheet with rows and columns. So don’t bother- the best sources we’ve seen are closer to internal wiki systems. This centralizes the mostly unstructured datasets that we can then mine through for appropriate data on activity, spend, timeframe, product focus, geography, and other things needed for analytics. PR will always be unique challenge, but strong data will help.