Return on investment (ROI) has become the principal metric when demonstrating Public Relations (PR) success, as it connects PR outcomes to a company’s financial and business goals. However, ROI is not always the most accurate method to evaluate the total value of PR.

By focusing only on ROI, businesses might ignore an important key success indicator – the public’s perception of the brand’s reputation. An ROI-centric outlook not only fails to observe brand reputation, but also makes it difficult for PR agencies to prove their worth by only looking at total revenue and cost figures. Much of this process is not in the control of the agency.

Instead of using ROI as your only indicator of success, consider the below metrics:

  1. Growing your brand
    • One of the most important reasons businesses employ PR professionals is to build a brand identity that is recognised by their target audience. There is no better way to do this than by having a strong PR strategy. Tactics that make for a sustainable strategy include having a content plan that speaks to your target audience; having a presence on social media, networking at industry events; and contributing content to influential media publications.
  2. Keeping your competition out of the media
    • A core focus of PR is to keep your brand in the media, while also keeping the media attention off of your competitors. Any coverage that your business receives is taking the spotlight away from your competition. Therefore, it’s important to consistently ensure you are aligned with your PR strategy, to increase your share of voice and gain the advantage in your niche market.
  3. Reaching your target market
    • With the help of emerging technologies, PR professionals can assist your business in establishing which markets you should be targeting. Suppose you are trying to target potential clients within the technology industry with your latest product or service, paid-for advertisements will increase your brand awareness. To compliment this, PR can assist your business in identifying influencers, the publications your ideal audience reads, what people are saying online about your brand, and how to increase market share with your target audience.
  4. Building valuable relationships
    • Relationships form part of every facet of business and your PR team should be building strong relationships by operating as a link between your business and the media. In order for PR professionals to build lasting relationships, they need to consistently deliver a positive experience for all parties involved, which is created through establishing expectations, being transparent and solution-oriented.

PR is seen, more often than not, as a separate entity to marketing or advertising as it is difficult to justify its value when it comes to reporting on ROI. The fact that PR is often intangible and does not fit into common reporting metrics, is the reason why a lot of people have an issue understanding its value. While ROI is important to some degree, there are alternative ways to measure the success of your PR spend.

As Guy Kawasaki said, “Brands are built on what people are saying about you, not what you’re saying about yourself. People say good things about you when (a) you have a great product and (b) you get people to spread the word about it.”

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