Tip Sheet: Value, Expectations and ROI: Doing More With Less

PR professionals work diligently every day to deliver better results within the limitations of their budgets, but few seem to recognize that this is an ROI equation contributing directly to meaningful business results. Simple examples such as using targeted media lists for press release distribution, repurposing your digitized video for easy journalist access, or using your video news release (or an audio news release for radio) may seem small, but they can add up.

This phenomenon plays out in many industries. For example, a national retailer once used a rigorous public relations measurement program to test the worth of an annual brand- sponsored fishing tournament designed to support the company's line of fishing gear. It turned out that the event generated very little media coverage, which prompted the brand PR executive to probe further, at which point he discovered that the net profits for this particular sporting goods line were less than the cost of the sponsorship.

The exec returned hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company's coffers by simply "doing more with less and for less." The several hundreds of thousands of dollars that were saved were available to aid the company's bottom line or to re-invest in a more worthwhile form of PR or marketing.

The Ipswitch Factor

Here is a successful case study that demonstrates the value of PR. Founded in 1991, Ipswitch is a small, private developer of Windows-based software products that enhance the productivity of users from consumers to IT professionals. Based in Lexington, MA, the company competes with some of the giants of the software industry in the messaging and network management markets and is the leader in the file transfer protocol (FTP) market space with its product WS_FTP Pro.

The public relations department of Ipswitch regularly interacts with journalists regarding a range of corporate and product issues and relies on this form of marketing to position its products in a positive light to potential and existing customers. However, Ipswitch felt there was room for improvement in its U.S. and U.K. programs. Ipswitch wanted to determine how successful it was in getting its messages across to journalists, so that in turn, they would relay these messages to their audiences.

It decided to survey the influencers -- the journalists themselves in both countries -- to better understand what they knew about Ipswitch and its products.

Nearly 200 American and British journalists were contacted using a custom survey research instrument. Eighty-one interviews were completed (more than 41% of the entire sample); of the total, 28 were with U.S. contacts and 53 were with U.K. contacts.

Many journalists, particularly those in the United Kingdom, cited a low level of familiarity with Ipswitch and its products. However, the good news was that those who reported familiarity with Ipswitch reported a high perception of the company, its products, and its PR department.

Based on the findings, Ipswitch decided to address these opportunities in the following ways:

  • Increase the frequency of and investment in press tours. Ipswitch had averaged one press tour per year in Europe focused around product releases. It now proposed to conduct two European press tours and one U.S. press tour annually with IT and business publications regardless of product release announcements.
  • Conduct an Ipswitch press event. To generate visibility and a sense of newsworthiness, Ipswitch decided that an annual Ipswitch press event featuring its president, Roger Green, could provide industry overviews and outline the state of small business or IT-related topics.
  • Position Ipswitch as being responsive to customers. Ipswitch promoted its customer service orientation by publicizing customer events (such as customer user meetings) and publishing more case studies highlighting customers' use of Ipswitch products.

Using research to pinpoint the areas where it was strong and where it was weak allowed Ipswitch to make the most out of the PR budget and get the best results from its tactics.

While research and measurement is a thread that runs through the fabric of both examples, it need not be expensive or overly sophisticated. In most cases, the challenge of "spending money wisely" is answered intuitively and then verified through a formal research program. More often then not, and as was true in the cases cited here, the hunch was the key rather than the research: If you think you're wasting money, you probably are.

Contact: Mark Weiner is president of Delahaye. He can be reached at 203.663.2446 or mweiner@delahaye.com.