When budgets are being scrutinized in a tight economy, agencies are often asked if publicity delivers value.
In 20 years of probing, we've found that there is no generally accepted means of commercial evaluation of marketing publicity – news, interviews, case studies, thought-leaders, and other feature articles or programs. Editorial coverage, unlike ad space or time, is not for sale, so there is no market price available.
One goal is to find measurement criteria related to the cost of the specialized effort behind the publicity. How much planning, research, and time was spent to generate the idea to develop a story line and visuals? To work with the media of choice for publication and broadcast?
Before you implement a publicity project, cherry-pick the relevant factors from those noted here and rate each for its importance. Use a scale of 1 to 5, ranging from “little” to “somewhat” to “very.” Do it in advance to profile expected results and afterward to reflect actual outcomes.
At some point, a company may opt to equate the cost of a given quantity of editorial with the commercial cost of a comparable amount of advertising. This is to provide a hypothetical baseline. They may factor in such items as number of pages or frequency. Mechanical, visual, and production costs for print, online, or broadcast coverage may be included.
Some analysts place a premium value on editorial versus ad exposure, based on an assumption of perceived third-party objectivity of edited content. Editorial authority of qualified media often lends a unique value to the coverage. This content reflects an editor's or producer's judgment of its professional value to the reader, viewer, or listener.
Ads aren't normally subjected to editorial judgment, but are published within the publisher's guidelines and at the advertiser's discretion. The decision to advertise may be influenced by data that media search can reveal, e.g., cost per thousand of qualified audience, or behavioral response, such as inquiry, pass-along, file, or other signs of interest.
Weigh the value of such factors as special position; dominant lead-in to text; use of copies with sales force, customers, and prospects; and links on the company home page to the published text.
It can also help, where applicable, to consider other feedback, such as visitors online; registrants; page impressions; average number of visitors; number of pages per visit; and studies that include job titles, departments, and other demos.
Editorial content, the thinking goes, is more apt to be broadly objective than advertising, whose audience value is not assessed by the editor or producer. Put another way, advertising is what we honestly claim for our products, while publicity is what knowledgeable media find will attract, hold, and build audience.
In the end, the value of marketing publicity lies in what the company believes it achieves. That confidence is best based on a broad set of inputs and insights that reflect total impact. Thorough analysis will help to ensure an effective publicity plan, budget, and ROI, whether stand-alone or as part of a comprehensive marketing communications strategy.
Joseph Moran is president of Naples, FL-based SJM&A. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.