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Proving PR ROI Through Multi-Touch Attribution

Proving the value of public relations in impacting and driving sales leads and conversions has been a difficult feat. Caitlin Jamali, senior research analyst at Cision Global Insights says, “Communications professionals want to be able to clearly tie their initiatives to a tangible return, but there are so many intangibles that come into play.” 

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Because there are so many variables involved in PR measurement, Jamali notes that it’s not possible to account for everything and suggests that employing a holistic approach and comprehensive strategy can help practitioners gain a deeper understanding of the value of their communications efforts in driving leads and sales.

To best understand the impact of public relations activities and measure success, a Multi-touch Attribution model is recommended.  Multi-touch Attribution is the process of determining the value of each customer touch point leading to a conversion. It helps in determining which marketing channel(s) or campaign(s) should be credited with the conversion. As such, it ultimately helps determine where to allocate future resources to acquire new customers. Through Multi-touch Attribution, you can arrive at answers to questions such as: How did your customers first hear about you? What communication channels are they interacting with most often? What campaigns are most successful at driving leads down the sales funnel?

A key benefit of Multi-touch Attribution is that it distributes credit for conversions among all the communications channels your customers experience through their journey. It also recognizes that to assign credit for a conversion to one campaign isn’t realistic because leads are typically generated through six to eight – or even more – touch points before converting.

Only crediting the first or last campaign a lead touches won’t provide an accurate understanding of how successful each campaign or channel was in generating a conversion. But implementing Multi-touch Attribution will significantly improve your ability to understand the impact of your communications efforts. As you approach this strategy, make sure to:

  • Understand the limitations – Measuring PR ROI will never be 100 percent accurate because it is difficult to capture factors such as word-of-mouth. According to Cision, while first-person testimonials offer a lot of value, they can’t be tracked as easily as other touch points such as white papers and webinars. Social media is a tool that can help you understand the impact word-of-mouth is having on your audience. Start a social listening program to help track some of what your audience is saying about your brand. 
  • Look beyond the financial impact – Return-on-investment doesn’t always connote financial impact. It also can refer to the intangible benefits one receives from PR as well. For example, ROI should include metrics to track brand and social impact such as share-of-voice and sentiment, as well as how your brand compares to competition in your industry. While it may not be possible to demonstrate how share-of-voice results in leads and customers, progress can be shown over time.
  • Look at the big picture – Leads interact with a multitude of touchpoints before converting, and tracking their journey is complex. Conversions take time and determining the success of a campaign may take longer than planned. Multi-touch Attribution enables you to track patterns and trends to understand the distance between a campaign and conversion.  Because patterns don’t always remain the same though, ensure that you are continuously analyzing data and testing to determine what works best – and make any necessary changes as you move forward.
  • Centralize data – Gathering and tracking a large amount of data can lead to inefficiencies and inaccuracies. To streamline the measurement process, sync all data sources, such as CRM systems, marketing performance management systems and marketing automation systems, among others.
  • Spread the credit around – Determine which of your campaigns deserves more credit for driving conversions by employing weighted models. There are several to choose from. If this is your first time using Multi-touch Attribution, Cision recommends starting with a basic linear model, which assigns equal credit for conversions to all campaigns. Over time, determine what makes the most sense for your brand. 
  • Invest in Analysis – Communicators may understand the value of their data but may not necessarily know how to combine it and identify insights from it. It may help to rely on an expert in this area to comb through your data and identify important insights.

Measuring PR ROI is not a sporadic, one-time-only process. It requires dedication, time and commitment to truly understand the contribution and value of PR campaigns and initiatives to driving leads and conversions.