With many brands facing budget freezes or cuts in 2023, teams are learning to do more with less. But as Aleksandra Kubicka, PR evangelist at Prowly, pointed out at PR360, those able to continue investing during a downturn usually experience stronger sales and performance as the economy emerges from it.
“Companies that maintained or increased spend during a recession had 256% higher sales than their counterparts post-recession,” Kubicka says. “Spending now leads to better return on investment – prices go down, and rewards are bigger as a result. You can get a bigger share of voice, and turn it into a bigger market share, and this stands you in good stead for the end of the downturn.”
The best way to make the case for investment is to show the impact PR and comms has on the business – to do this, it’s crucial to pick the right metrics.
The metrics to avoid
Kubicka advises against using ‘big numbers’ such as advertising value equivalency (AVE) when making the case for investment in PR. “Large and inflated numbers were borrowed decades ago from advertising and are often not meaningful for demonstrating the impact of PR campaigns.” In the case of AVE, the attraction is understandable: “The C-suite understands advertising, and it’s easy to generate. The numbers are bigger than the cost of the campaign, and it has a ‘£’ in front of it, so it’s confused as a return on investment metric.”
She warns that such inflated figures usually fail to paint a true picture. “[The figure could be] hundreds of thousands of dollars, but over half of your brand mentions could be negative in sentiment. It doesn’t reflect the value of earned media. But it’s still happening – 26% of PR professionals still use it.”
Among other metrics Kubicka advises against are domain reach – “it doesn’t actually tell us how many people read an article” – and unique visitors per month.
Those insights, based on The State of PR Technology 2023 survey, emphasise the importance of selecting meaningful metrics. This survey is still open and Prowly is encouraging PR professionals to participate and contribute their valuable perspectives.
The metrics to use
While there are no perfect metrics, Kubicka adds: “If you have metrics that represent brand performance, media quality and mentions, you’re on the right track.”
Brand performance can often be linked to share of voice. Kubicka asks: “Does your share of voice align with your market share? And if it’s below, is something wrong with your media strategy?”
She also emphasises how PR and communications teams contribute to the entire marketing funnel, influencing people at every stage of the purchasing process. Finding ways to suggest the extent of this can help the team highlight their value. “Correlation is a way of gathering metrics to show the impact you have. Show the correlation between PR activities and activity on the website, changes in branded keyword search, and other measures like this.”
When it comes to media, Kubicka advises focusing on quality and the right titles for the brand. “This doesn’t necessarily mean the most prestigious titles, but knowing where and who your target audiences are. When you have this knowledge you can find the right outlets.”
From there, the comms team can focus on the quality of mentions. Focusing on the most relevant media outlets, the team can analyse shares, comments and the engagement rate of each article containing mentions of the organisation. They can assess whether the key message was delivered, and the sentiment of the brand mention. “[This means] we can prove we were where our audience is, and that we had this impact on them,” Kubicka says.
Done right, this allows comms teams to show, for example, the percentage increase of share of voice in tier-one media, and how much of the time the key message was delivered. “This is understandable for the C-suite,” enabling the investment case to be made more easily.
Prowly is conducting extensive research to understand how technology is shaping the world of PR. Click here to enter The State of PR Technology 2023 survey.