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PR and ROI

“There’s no ROI for public relations, so why do it?”

It’s a common misperception that there’s no ROI for PR. Let’s start with getting our definitions straight. “Marketing” is selling. Thus there’s reliable ROI for marketing communications – more sales mean a return on the marketing campaign investment. “Public relations” is goodwill, reputation, brand enhancement – in short, how customers and the community feel about your company, products, and services. So yes, ROI is a little squishier because sales are tangential to the larger goal of getting people to feel good about your company and brand. That said, goodwill toward your brand in the community and marketplace is essential to your success as a company. That’s why public relations goes hand-in-hand with your marketing communications efforts.

What kind of ROI can you expect from a PR campaign? Here are a few examples. Holding an event? Count how many people attend. Building an online PR presence? Tally page views, visitors, and other web stats. Does the campaign include a social media element? (It definitely should.) Track Likes and followers, and examine comments to determine engagement and tone (positive or negative). Is there a media relations component? Take note of what coverage you get, and its tone (positive, negative, neutral). Consider a survey of some sort, and let your customers and clients tell you directly what they think about you, and how you can improve. Take on a community service or charity project, and let your PR team promote it. Customers like to work with companies that give back locally and globally.

Don’t expect more from public relations than it can deliver. PR generally doesn’t lead to a direct increase in sales. But good PR reinforces your brand, enhances your reputation, and increases goodwill toward your company in the community and marketplace. And that ultimately helps sales. If people don’t like you, they probably won’t buy from you or retain your services. And that’s why you pay for PR.

Mary Ellin Arch worked in journalism for 35 years as a reporter and editor, for such news organizations as Gannett and Associated Press. She switched to public relations in 2008 and has operated her own business, P46 Communications, since 2018. Contact her at for PR consults and to discuss workshops and other trainings.


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