Measuring Public Relations ROI: The Best Tools for Success

Any function in the business world runs on implementing projects, measuring their success, and making strategic adjustments to ensure enhanced metrics and determine the return on investment. 

Marketing is no different, and given its tremendous spend in the U.S., which peaked at $197.47 billion last year alone, measuring ROI is critically vital. The challenge for most CMOs and directors of public relations is how to both accurately and congruently quantify and qualify the investments they have made. 

Unlike the advertising function that can more easily track return on investment to sales, tracking public relations activities is often more complex, yet yields abundant data-rich information that can drill down deeper than basic advertising metrics. The value is enormous as marketing leaders can identify the traditional metrics of reach and impressions, as well as track engagement and sentiment, and both behavioral and attitudinal drivers.

Pitfalls of Measuring In-House

Since the inception of public relations, measurement has often included dedicating the time of a junior team member to physically track stories to determine reach, the number of column inches, or minutes on air. 

But given the evolution of the media landscape and the sheer volume of outlets across traditional, digital and social media channels, it can be a monumentally time-consuming effort for an in-house team to undertake. In fact, becoming an in-house measurement team also requires a plethora of paid subscriptions totaling thousands of dollars annually to bypass paywalls and access coverage. Similarly, manual research and tabulation also compromise the integrity of the final reports as many opportunities may be inadvertently missed.

Perhaps the single most helpful tool in determining the reach of public relations efforts is a media monitoring service that provides professional tracking and measurement tools.

With so many providers offering a dizzying array of services, it’s hard to know where to start to ensure the best possible service for a company’s needs.

Where Do You Play: Understanding Your Needs

Begin by recognizing where you play, or more specifically, the markets you’re in, the audiences you are trying to reach and any specific trends and numbers you are tracking.

  • Is your coverage primarily local/regional or national?
  • Do you play in the print space, broadcast, or a mix of both?
  • What are you measuring for – broad reach of your message? Sentiment among potential customers? General awareness? Tracking competitor coverage? Determining your share of voice? 

Your answers to the questions above will help guide you in determining the best tracking tool for your business.

Doing Your Homework: Grading the Players

It is important to note that the field of measurement is often confusing, with monitoring companies selling a full range of services. While the thought of measuring every Tweet or news story repost in real-time can be intoxicating for measurement gurus, it can often lead to more complex and more costly services than most companies truly need. 

Once you figure out what you need to track, you will have a better understanding of how to convey your needs to the various monitoring services available. A quick primer to help guide you as you begin your research journey:

Meltwater

ConsAnnual plans can range anywhere from $15,000-$35,000 and up annually. Packages can be customized to include print, online, broadcast, social media and podcast monitoring. There are opportunities to negotiate costs based on the type of package that’s needed.
Pros
  • Allows users to track and measure news release pick-up

  • Provides specialized keyword searches and opportunities to zero in on topics

Operates proprietary technology to capture content from all corners of the globe, across news, social media, print, broadcast, and podcasts and scans:
  • 300,000 news sources globally

  • 15 social media networks

  • 25,000 podcasts, including the ability to add podcasts if they aren’t in monitoring queue

  • Specialized dashboards that analyze results and benchmark performance across metrics
Cons
  • Costly

  • Increasing number of services, as well as the number of users, saved searches and dashboards increases pricing

Cision

CostAnnual plans that begin at $7,200 per year according to Prowly Magazine.
Pros
  • Real-time, online media monitoring

  • Print, broadcast, social media, and influencer monitoring

  • Ability to create on-demand clip reports

  • Specialized dashboards that provide in-depth analytics and insights

Cons
  • Costly, especially as different options for monitoring are incorporated into the service package. Also, transparency of costs.

  • Difficult to use; not as intuitive

  • Challenging to receive support from sales team.

Critical Mention

CostAnnual plans that begin at $5,000 per year for unlimited TV, radio, print and digital monitoring and reporting. Adding social media monitoring increases the price to $6,500 per year. Costs are negotiable and bulk-enroll option for agencies looking to group cost clients is available.
Pros
  • Robust support and service

  • Ability to scale coverage package for small and large company needs.

Access to:
  • Millions of digital news sources

  • More than 2,500 TV and radio channels

  • Social media channels

  • Licensed content from paywalled and print sources

  • Thousands of podcasts

Most detailed specialized dashboards that analyze results and benchmark performance across metrics in real-time
Unlimited customizable searches and in-depth analytics for brand and competitors
Special rates for nonprofits
ConsWhile offering one of the most comprehensive services available, the product may be too hefty for clients needing basic services

Covered Press

CostVariety of plans for different tiers of coverage:

$195 per month ($2,145 per year) for a solo plan
  • Track up to 350 media hits

  • Unlimited reports for one user

  • Ability to track one domain and 2 keywords per client (up to 5 clients)

$295 per month ($4,345 per year) for an agency plan
  • Track up to 1,000 media hits

  • Unlimited reports and clients

  • Up to five users

  • Ability to track one domain and 4 keywords per client

  • Analysis of up to 250 hits only

$995 per month ($10,945 per year) for an agency plus plan
  • Track up to 5,000 media hits

  • Unlimited reports and clients

  • Up to 15 users

  • Ability to track one domain and 6 keywords per client

  • Analysis of up to 1,000 hits only

Pros
  • Free trial period

  • Different options based on scalable needs

  • Focus on online coverage
Cons
  • Costly considering limited users, trackable domains/keywords and number of media hits available for analysis

  • Primarily online and social coverage

  • While they do monitor online coverage and social media, they do not monitor print or broadcast coverage. (Print or broadcast clips can be uploaded individually by the user, but readership/circulation and viewership is not tracked unless entered by the user.)

  • Inconsistent media hit pickup.

  • Support is limited of business hours. After-hours inquiries will be responded to the following business day.

CoverageBook

ConsVariety of monthly or annual plans for different tiers of coverage:

Bronze: $99 per month ($1,089 per year)
  • Track up to 100 media clips per month

  • Up to 5 users

  • Unlimited clip books and clients/brands

Silver: $199 per month ($2,189 per year)
  • Track up to 1,000 clips per month

  • Unlimited users, books, reports and clients/brands

Gold: $499 per month ($5,489 per year)
  • Silver features with more than 1,000 clips per month

  • Personal one-hour training session

Pros
  • Easy, intuitive platform that allows users to edit information, including impressions and addition of offline coverage by uploading clips

  • Wide range of monitoring

  • Flexible; ability to cancel at any time without additional fees and pause coverage for only $15 per month and then reactivate a plan when monitoring is required

Cons
  • Primarily focused on online media monitoring; not as comprehensive in monitoring as competitors

  • Some coverage statistics do not match media kit numbers

  • Pop-up ads tend to be captured in online clips

  • Clip book template does not allow editing

*NOTE: Pricing above gives a snapshot of anticipated costs. Final pricing is wholly dependent on the specific needs of the client that will be analyzed accordingly by each monitoring company and any negotiations with individual sales teams

Measuring your PR ROI

With an abundance of tools, measuring a company’s PR ROI is easier and more insightful than ever, and is a more budget-friendly tool than dedicating a full-time junior employee’s $40,000 annual salary to counting clips.

But, given the massive scale and ubiquitous scope of media today – from print and broadcast to millions of online social media entries and podcasts – measurement is a complex process of research, analysis, and reporting. Despite its complexity, it’s a vital tool in determining the impact of the messaging and the influence of your PR efforts on the bottom line. If you need support for your PR measurement goals in the new year, reach out to us at 480-305-2017 or info@rmimpr.com.

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