What’s the ROI of PR? It depends on who you ask. If you ask a sales manager or a VP of sales, they’re liable to give you a very different answer than the VP of communications, and the answer may not always be pleasant or positive.
Why is this the case, when there are ways to quantifiably demonstrate the value of public relations?
The answer can be summed up in one word: BANT.
In sales, especially in complex transactions (houses, mortgages, cars, high value B2B and B2C), the acronym BANT has been the gold standard of lead qualification ever since IBM introduced it into its sales processes decades ago. BANT stands for four characteristics that define the quality of a sales lead:
- Budget: does the lead have the fiscal means to make a purchase? No money, no sale.
- Authority: does the lead have the ability to sign on the dotted line, or are there others in the approval process? Selling to a committee is much more onerous than selling to an individual.
- Need: does the lead have a need for your product/service? No need means you have to generate demand, a much harder process.
- Timeframe: does the lead have a clear deadline for purchase? No timeframe means no urgency, and a much tougher sale.
The ideal lead to a salesperson is someone who has plenty of money, solo approval authority, a clear need, and an urgent timeframe.
Now, consider the outcomes of effective public relations. Ultimately, we generate audiences who are aware of what we have to offer and trust in our brands and reputation. Awareness and trust are meta-qualities which influence a sale; no trust means the sale never even gets started. No awareness means the customer never enters the funnel at all.
The outcomes of PR are so much higher in the funnel that the average salesperson doesn’t see them at all. Marketing – the process of converting qualified members of an audience into leads – sits between PR and sales.
If public relations professionals want to demonstrate our worth downfunnel, how would we convert what we do into the language of sales? Using attribution analysis tools like Google Analytics, we can help identify the value of the audience we create.
- Budget: are our public relations efforts reaching a qualified audience that has budget? Tools like website visitor analytics (shown below) can tell us if we’re reaching companies of the right size.
- Authority: are our public relations efforts reaching an audience with authority? Look in your marketing automation software at the job titles of people coming into your marketing funnel. Are they the right people?
- Need: does the audience we’re examining have clear needs? Look in Google Analytics at Behavior Flow. Are more visitors (audience) on key pages like services and product pages?
- Timeframe: are our PR campaigns timed to known seasonality in our business sales cycle? Is coverage appearing when buyers are starting to shop or beginning the RFP process?
Here’s an example in Google Analytics of identifying companies. Assuming you have goals and goal values set up properly, go to Audience > Technology > Network, and sort by either number of conversions/transactions or conversion value. Look at the networks where your highest value conversions are coming from. Some of them will be corporations, as shown here:
With this information, you can start to identify if you’re reaching the right businesses and places with your PR efforts.
Sales and public relations can speak the same language, the language of business success. We just need to understand key outcomes for each team and how our results lead to others’ results and vice versa for maximum impact.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology