I was invited to speak at the 2018 AMEC conference in Barcelona. My topic, “ROO – one small step for measurement, one giant leap for PR!” attempted to hammer home the importance of ROO – return on objectives to align communications to organisational objectives and the fact that ROI is a limiting and an unfitting term in the PR parlance. A lot of conversations followed which make me feel bullish that ROO is the way to go.
- Crisp objectives are a strong foundation for any PR success story. Measures are easy to attach if one knows, “what success look like”, “desired behavioral changes are” and other well-articulated objectives. Measuring progress against each objective then becomes more realistic and believable. A good approach for this could be to set clear PR objectives aligned to the corporate goals. These could be in addition to the regular qualitative and quantitative goals. Worked out in conjunction with the business leaders, they become co-owned and get tracked regularly. Understanding of the overall corporate / business goals and figuring out how PR can help fulfill them also puts PR in the strategic zone. The focus then shifts towards outcomes and not outputs of the PR team. Good part is that there are techniques available to evaluate PR with respect to corporate / brand goals viz. shift in perception, reputation, brand tracks, leads, and employer brand scores, just to mention a few.
- Course corrections, if needed can be done at every step of the PR process if step wise objectives are known and measured. This can lead to a better quality of final PR outcome. Monitoring and listening plays an important role in this. So apart from the qualitative analysis of the news clips, Share of Voice vis-à-vis identified competition set, key message delivery, appropriate audience and priority market segmentation, coverage in specific genre of media and endorsements by stakeholders are some more measures that can lead to an informed change in PR strategy. Innumerous tools and agencies, for tracking and monitoring traditional, online and new media are available easily.
- Measurement becomes easy as each objective is a standalone one with respective measures, collectively they lead to a larger PR success. A robust increase in the ROO’s (exceeding the PR goals) would eventually lead to a larger ROI contribution from the overall PR campaign – be it corporate or brand related.
- Lastly, as PR ROI means effect of PR on increasing revenue or profits, I personally feel, calculating it in real terms is not a straight equation.
Perhaps the importance of a good communications department or a PR campaign is best understood by simply imagining what things would be like in its absence. I believe, large organisations are microcosms of a complex world full of diversity. With multiple stakeholders across multiple businesses and geographies; within and outside the organisation enabled by a global information landscape, the PR measurement conundrum can be complicated. Trying to quantify could be even more. Can one quantify the cost of reputation saved due to effective PR? Can we assign a monetary value to it or the frequent crises a PR team mitigates silently and claim it as the ROI?
I feel, the best way for a PR function to create and showcase value is to align its strategy to the top organisational goals, articulate business/brand related PR objectives in line with this strategy, set the expectations right with the C-suite by jointly agreeing on the objectives and measures of success and then go all out to ensure that the objectives are met hence demonstrating maximum ROO.