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Will I get value for money out of PR?

PR is all about how you and your brand are perceived externally. Unfortunately, it's still often ignored by businesses. Yet, businesses can definitely get value for money out of PR. We explain why and how.

PR is all about how you and your brand are perceived externally. It has many facets, covering both social media and traditional media, local networking, influencing what other people say about you and more broadly your overall reputation. The question is, will I actually get value for money out of PR?

 PR to build your brand reputation

Your external brand is important as it dictates whether new customers will come to you and whether existing customers stay. It’s no secret that businesses that get good things said about them by independent and trusted third parties are likely to see more traffic coming to their website, followed by a gradual sales increase. In that context, you will absolutely benefit from PR.

As such, any business that fails to do PR is ignoring the importance of their external brand positioning, and in today’s world there are few businesses that can afford to do that. The bigger question though is how to get the best value from PR, and that depends on what you spend on it, as much as what you subsequently try to measure.

 A positive piece of coverage is worth about four times the value of an advert

PR should be seen as part of an overall marketing mix. It sits alongside placed advertising, sales campaigns, sponsorships and the like, and it is difficult to quantify which adds more value. Placing an advert means that you are definitely ‘in the paper’, but people are now much more cynical about believing what businesses say in advertising. 

On the other hand, they do believe what independent commentators say, and it is generally accepted that a positive media comment is worth about four times the value of an advert. Whilst there is never any certainty that a journalist will use a Press Release, circulating it to a wide market increases that probability, and mentions on online news sites, and by bloggers, helps the SEO of a business. That's why you should integrate your PR and SEO strategies.

The best, and in fact only, sensible way to look at the value of overall marketing spend is, across all the initiatives, at the end of the year did sales go up or not. Those businesses that analyse to the ‘nth degree’ what return on investment each initiative delivers are both deluding themselves and should be getting out more.

So how much in this marketing mix budget should a business commit to PR?

The easiest answer is that it depends on the sector, the business, the product, the objective, and we could go on.  But generally speaking, a small business should be investing about 5% of its marketing budget on PR. That need not be a big number. With platforms like JournoLink, a small business can achieve all it needs for its PR for just £200 a year. That implies an overall spend on marketing as a whole of about £350 a month, which is about right for a small business with an appetite to grow bigger.

And that’s how to measure the value. If a business has an appetite to grow, even modestly, then it needs to market itself. PR is an integral part of that, but at a cost that is manageable.

The big mistake made by businesses that obsess about whether they are getting value for money from PR is that they spend more time and money on the analysis they do on the marketing. A cutting service to see where media mentions have been achieved will often cost more than the campaign itself. Those who do engage in tracking convince themselves that a media mention is worth four times the advert cost in the same columns, but whilst it might be an ego trip to see the name of the business in print if the website traffic and the sales don’t go up, it has no real value.

To get value for money out of PR, make sure to follow those rules:

·  Coordinate traditional media, social media and marketing campaigns. So, if you put a press release out coincide it with other activity like a launch, or related event, and tweet about it too.

·  Keep the PR spend modest. Don’t get drawn into expensive ‘champagne campaigns’ that may make you feel important, but deliver no more than a sensibly costed exercise would.

·  Don’t spend double the time on agonising over the value than you did on the campaign. Accept that it is part of an overall marketing mix and get on with growing your business.

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Written by: Peter Ibbetson, Company Director

As one of the co-founders of JournoLink PR, Peter is passionate about giving small businesses a voice in the press by providing them with the support and advice to do just that. 

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