Are my PR results any good? PR and ROI


5th February 2022


Jessica Morgan

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4 minutes

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“What’s a typical return on investment (ROI) on PR activity?” It’s a question that usually gets asked early on in our PR conversations with potential clients. And it’s one we’re always happy to discuss – particularly as it’s important to understand what success looks like right from the start.

As covered in our PR FAQs, there’s not often a linear journey from coverage to conversion, and, equally, PR isn’t all about direct sales.

When can you calculate ROI from PR activity?

It is possible to make ROI calculations from PR activity. For example, one of our clients won a new, large piece of business and their PR coverage and specifically their strong, clear profile was mentioned as part of the decision-making. Our client wasn’t running other awareness activity at the time, so they could attribute a good proportion of that sale to PR activity.

Another example is a spike in sales following coverage. Another client had their product featured in Stylist for the first time following our PR activity. Up to ten sales followed within 24 hours, which was a significant uplift for them, and they were able to directly attribute that spike to the PR.

In digital-only PR campaigns, you can also sometimes track all the way from clickable content to conversion, in the same way you can track an online advertising campaign.

What other PR measurement is useful?

However, to track ROI as the sole PR campaign measurement is only telling part of the story. There are many other impacts that PR can have on a business alongside that make it a worthwhile investment. We’ve covered the benefits of PR in detail, but in a nutshell PR can:

  • Provide content for other activity such as social media and blogs
  • Support your recruitment efforts
  • Provide a boost for your current team
  • Reinforce your messages to current clients
  • Help with SEO

PR is one “touchpoint” for a customer or potential customer. A touchpoint is a way in which a brand reaches out to their target market with their message. That includes in an article, at an event or in an advert. On average, people need to see or experience 16 touchpoints before they decide to buy a product or service.

How does Carnsight Communications measure PR activity?

At Carnsight, PR measurement starts with the client’s objective. That’s not always sales, as above – it might also be coverage in a certain publication or set of publications.

A measurement tool we use for every campaign we do – whether one-off or ongoing – is CoverageBook. Using CoverageBook, we can share every piece of coverage achieved (including social media) and also showcase the impact of each campaign.

Each piece of coverage is captured and metrics are evaluated on the platform, realtime. Using the CoverageBook algorithm, we can establish the following for the online coverage we generate:

  • Estimated coverage views (not just circulation, but how many pairs of eyes the coverage has had on it)
  • Website links within the coverage
  • Average domain authority (how authoritative the coverage is online – great for SEO)
  • Social media shares of the coverage
  • Number of pieces of coverage

Offline coverage is also showcased on the platform, accompanied by circulation figures.

What about AVE in PR?

In the “good old days” of PR, advertising value equivalent (AVE) was queen. AVE is a monetary value attributed to PR coverage that estimates how much the piece would be worth if it was paid for. AVE was calculated on the size of a piece, its prominence and the readership figures. I’ve helped with AVE evaluations. Anything that starts with you measuring a piece of coverage with a ruler isn’t very real world, in my opinion.

You can see where AVE came from, and I do sometimes use advertising costs to put a piece of coverage into perspective. For example, “an advertorial in this publication would cost you £3,000”. But AVE is a blunt instrument, doesn’t take into account the essence of PR, is more relevant offline than online, and is certainly best confined to the past.

So there you have it. That’s how we measure PR activity at Carnsight Communications, the relationship between PR and ROI and the metrics we use to track and showcase every campaign.