As a business, how do you know your marketing and public relations contractors are working hard to get results for you rather than draining your hard-earned cash?

The answer is measuring return on investment.

Good communications should be considered as an investment. If you do a good job of telling people the benefits of what you have to offer, the results should bring reward.

When it comes to marketing and public relations, what is return on investment?

Return on investment is the return you get for every dollar you spend.

Some people and organisations spend a lot of effort, time and money trying to measure the exact dollar value – and rightly so. After all, if work doesn’t get the desired results, it’s a waste of everyone’s time and effort.

As an example, a simplistic way of measuring the return on investment for writing and distribution of a media release is to check how many media outlets publish the release. 

The dollar value may be hard to calculate, but if you weigh up the cost of the media release against the cost of advertising in each of the publications, you’ll realise there is potential to achieve a lot more value – or a lot less if the release is not picked up at all.

Building in time to report results

While some circles make a living developing algorithms to try and measure the exact dollar value of intangibles like brand value, considering return on investment doesn’t need to break the bank. It’s really a matter of considering the market value of the benefits you’re receiving. 

It’s tricky to label a campaign as ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ without measurable results, so building in reporting time from the outset can be a good way to go. One way to go about it is to clearly identify your objectives and report on your progress towards achieving them. This will demonstrate whether your activities are adding value or not.

Take the example of media coverage. People are acclimatised to advertising in a way that doesn’t apply to news. Positive media coverage can be much more powerful than advertising. That’s because someone with a claim to objectivity is telling the story, rather than someone with a vested interest.

Measuring the impact of media coverage

If you work on media releases, measuring media pickup is a good place to start. Showing a client that their story was picked up by over 200 media outlets worldwide is a wonderful feeling, take my word for it. But taking the time to find the coverage can be a tedious matter of repeated web searches and educated guesses.

Media release distribution systems such as iSentia’s MediaPortal or international newswire services such as PRWeb or BusinessWire often have reporting can be built in. There are even some services that will provide media digests including print newspaper articles.

While paying for these services to provide measurable return on investment might make sense for a national organisation, it is often not worthwhile for small to medium businesses that might only issue three or four media releases a year.

In these cases, targeting a specific niche, identifying the correct reporters or news editors and approaching them with a coherent and personal pitch can go a long way towards returning your investment with media coverage.

Back to the big picture

Not everyone has the budget of a multinational corporation to develop systems to find ‘the magic number’, but looking at the return on your public relations and marketing efforts should never be put in the too-hard basket. It improves customer satisfaction, assists in planning for the future and can help build understanding within your business.

Media coverage is just one avenue you can explore to identify if your communications are giving you the best bang for your buck. Here are a few tips to help you the most return for your time and effort:

Five simple tips to help you maximise return on investment

  • Explore automated reporting

Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor have built-in reporting features that can provide valuable insights on who is reading your email communications. Search tools like Google Analytics can also help you understand the ongoing impact of your SEO efforts online.

  • Use tools to gauge public response

Communications avenues like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to gauge public response to your communications via likes, shares and retweets, and these social media platforms also have built-in reporting tools. If the message you’re putting out there doesn’t resonate with your audience, why not explore a different approach?

  • Understand how customers found you

Taking the time to understand where your new customers heard about your organisation is very useful in measuring return on investment. If it turns out they found you online thanks to a Google AdWords campaign, this shows the time and effort you spent setting up the campaign is doing its job.

  • Plan ahead

It’s all too easy to rush ahead without considering where the path you are taking leads. To maximise return on investment, it should be considered first in the planning stages, then studied after the event. If you skip the planning stage, you aren’t planning to maximise return on investment at all.

  • Take time to understand what’s going on

If you set aside time to understand the results of a campaign, this will help you learn from each campaign and aid you in planning how to maximise return on investment the next time around.


Thanks for reading! There are many techniques you can use to understand, measure and maximise your return on investment in communications and marketing. If you would like a hand with your communications efforts or are looking to build a marketing and PR strategy, why not contact us for a free consultation?