Why Your PR Budget Needs to Include PR Analytics

With the end of the year upon us, marketers are working with their finance staff on the tedious task of creating 2017 budgets. A marketing budget not only sets the tone for what to expect in the next year, but also helps to communicate how marketing will support the business in reaching priorities and goals for the year.

The marketing industry is filled with plenty of suggested strategies and ideas for budgeting, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you are “supposed to be doing” to help your company grow. Many still overlook the very important element of measurement and analytics as a key component to the budget. Forward-thinking companies, though, are noticing how vital proper measurement is to success. There are multitudes of articles pointing to the value of implementing a measurement tool in your program, but many are still hesitant. Perceived cost is one excuse, a lack of value is another.

In truth, the value of measuring and analyzing outcomes cannot be stressed enough. While it may take an investment to implement measurement and purchase the best tools, the very heart of doing so saves companies money and resources in the long run. Your marketing budget may be for naught if you fail to analyze what’s working and what isn’t—you could be throwing money out the door year over year if you’re not measuring success.

To prepare yourself and your PR team, now is the time to start thinking about implementing measurement standards for 2017. Heading to the AMEC site is a good first step; reading Katie Paine and Margot Savell in PR News Pro is another.

Brands, consider this: If your PR agency lacks an automated PR measurement solution, a good portion of your investment likely is spent on an account executive charging for countless hours of combing through media coverage and social channels. Your dollars are better spent on having the PR team work on securing results and automating the capture of those results.

In order to gain or maintain market share, communicators need to understand that PR analytics is an essential part of any successful marketing program. For brands, investment in PR often comes in the form of hiring a PR agency or consultant who is billing for time spent pitching reporters, responding to HAROs, submitting awards and finding and responding to speaking opportunities and attending events. Which of these investments is essential to your organization and which ones are simply blowing through your marketing budget with no proven ROI? Both brands and agencies should want to know. Does one speaking or award opportunity increase brand awareness more than another? Beyond maximizing your marketing budget, PR analytics can help you set a benchmark for expected performance—and identify patterns of that success so you can repeat what’s working and pivot from what isn’t.

If you’re investing in PR—agency, awards, media, events, speaking, content, analysts, etc.—but don’t want to invest in measurement tools, you’re lacking a crucial element to an intelligent strategy, and likely wasting money. You can’t measure what you don’t track. With the advent of PR analytics and technology, data is put directly into your hands, and PR investments, outputs and outcomes can be aligned. Patterns of success can be identified and followed, while less successful initiatives can change direction earlier. Your budget can be spent more wisely, ensuring better ROI than ever. Don’t be left behind. Measurement is crucial to your success and the technology to do so is more affordable than ever.

Not every PR campaign, budget or client is created equal, of course. Neither is every PR tech vendor. So what you spend on monitoring, measurement and analytics depends on the size of the brand or client and on the PR activity they undertake. For example, larger clients may have more information to gather and analyze than a small brand, or they might do more in their PR campaigns (such as events, awards, speaking) than a smaller brand. Larger PR agencies will have more clients and client competitors to monitor, or clients who want more detailed reports. Larger brands may use multiple different vendors in their PR stack to monitor media or track social mentions. And of course, the smaller the budget, the bigger the impact of the spend, so it’s important to ensure that you’re getting as much as you need with one vendor.

With that being said, we would recommend that for an individual brand or one client, the average PR analytics budget should be 5-10% of the total budget.

There are several questions to consider when choosing your PR stack for analytics, including:

  • What percent of your marketing budget is allocated to PR-specific programs? Does the use of tools overlap with other areas of marketing (and thus, budget ownership)?
  • What tools are already in place and will continue to be used for monitoring, marketing automation or other PR tech tools? Are these included in your analytics budget?
  • How will the data be used? Ensure that the investment isn’t just to look back at what happened, but to analyze patterns of success so you can repeat what’s working and pivot from what doesn’t. Make sure the client or C-level executive is bought into using data to steer change.
  • How will we ensure that the data helps us to retain and win new clients or increase our PR effectiveness internally? (Hint: Dedicate a data analyst).
  • For an agency, does the measurement plan—and analytics reporting—align with your client's expectations?

Susan Sweenie is marketing manager at SeeDepth Inc.