Often clients ask about what they can expect as a return on investment by using Public Relations.
The answer is not as easy as it is with sales. In sales, one can calculate the return on the dollar for an ad spend and sales generated.
In PR, The ROI is more about communications objectives and less about financial objectives.
Because public relations is, at core, about heightening company/product awareness and promoting a positive reputation. What price can you put on a good product review? A request to speak at a conference? Your name mentioned among industry leaders in an article or anecdotally. Having said that there are measures that are widely used to determine PR success, and that has to do with the number, frequency and breadth of media clips or mentions secured in the media. But volume alone does not guarantee success. What is the tone of the story? Is it positive or negative? Does the article support your core message and your market positioning? How many calls, emails, anecdotal mentions by colleagues, employees, suppliers and competitors of seeing your company name mentioned in the media? How many website visits occur as a result of an article appearing in a trade journal. These in large part can be measured and assessed.
However, the intangible aspects of PR are about gaining brand recognition and market leadership. It does not happen overnight with one press release or a few mentions in the media. The longer term is about building brand equity, and market leadership. It takes time to move the needle.
So the answer to the question about ROI and PR is that PR is a tool to achieving your objectives but not your sales tool.