How to Address Client Demands for ROI in Communications & PR

February 20 2023

When it comes to marketing and PR, tactics often seem subjective. Everyone’s got an opinion on whether that advertising campaign was effective, or if this message would be best received by stakeholders. But when it comes to ROI in marketing, subjectivity gets tossed aside in favor of concrete results and analysis.

As PR and marketing communication professionals, first and foremost, our priority is to provide compelling work that leads to desired outcomes for our clients. If your agency can produce great ROI results for clients, you’ll always be successful. 

addressing client demands for ROI in communications and PRHere are four points to consider when trying to decide how best to satisfy a client’s demands for ROI in communications and PR:

1. Establish KPIs for Your PR Initiatives

For the best outcomes, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page at the start. It’s essential for agencies and their clients to take part in a kickoff meeting to establish clear and relevant key performance indicators (KPIs). The last thing anyone wants is to assume what those KPIs are, only to learn later that assumption was false. That’s how agencies lose clients, and how clients can lose their jobs. 

KPIs for marketing and PR generally fall under categories such as:

  • Website traffic
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Brand awareness 
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
  • Earned media coverage

The KPIs can vary depending on the client, or even different projects that client has asked you to work on—but there shouldn’t be any mystery about what the client expects from your work. That’s why it’s important for the marketing agency and the client to agree to realistic KPIs during the initial kickoff meeting. Don’t take on a project that you don’t believe can bring about the outcome the client expects. Maybe you’ll need to reevaluate the KPIs if the goalposts move in the future—but both parties must first establish an agreed-upon target. 

2. Regularly Track Your Efforts and Compare Them to Client’s KPIs

Once the performance indicators are agreed upon, it’s up to the marketing or PR agency to develop a strategy to best accomplish those goals. For example, if a client has tasked your agency with improving its earned media coverage, develop a strategy that might include pitching subject matter experts to leading publications or writing news releases about the company to increase brand awareness and generate media placements. 

For example, our team at Roop & Co. implemented both tactics when leading service logistics provider Transportation Insight asked the agency to increase its share of voice. We developed a monitoring system to source editorial opportunities and measure the results of these efforts. Through this tracking, Roop & Co. quickly identified what was most successful in helping reach the client’s goal to increase share of voice. These efforts ultimately allowed us to increase Transportation Insight’s share of voice among its peers and exceed the initial KPIs we had established with the client. 

3. Communicate Your Marketing Results in a Clear, Concise Manner

When it comes to reporting results to clients, don’t bury the lead. Communicate the information in a clear, digestible manner designed to initiate follow-up questions to expand the discussion, rather than blank stares and customers left wondering, “What does this mean exactly?” Highlight the key takeaways from your program and provide context for the results to demonstrate the impact of the communication and PR efforts.

“In a perfect world, the results will be glowing, and your efforts will knock the client’s KPIs out of the park,” said Julie Osborne, an account supervisor at Roop & Co. “But that’s not always the case, and clients will respect that as long as you are straightforward and transparent. Ideally, your results should provide a foundation for future collaboration between the agency and client to ensure your next project together will be even more successful.”

Additionally, be sure to provide recommendations for future initiatives based on the results of the current efforts. Your marketing efforts don’t belong in a vacuum – they’re a barometer of what worked and what needs to be addressed for future positive outcomes. 

4. Your KPI Efforts Should Focus on Long-Term Impact 

Even if your client is only with your agency for a short period of time, you should still prioritize the long-term impact of your communication and PR efforts. For example, increased brand awareness can lead to increased customer loyalty and ultimately result in increased sales. By focusing on  long-term impact, clients will better understand the value of their investment in communication and PR.

The same can be said for KPIs based upon internal communications. For example, global special coatings leader RPM International Inc. launched a bi-weekly internal newsletter in March 2020 to enhance its employee communications during the pandemic and share inspiring stories about how its operating companies were coming together to help build a better world. A year after its launch, the e-newsletter was averaging a 32% open rate and 20% CTR. By analyzing these results, RPM could focus on storylines that would be more interesting to employees, and in turn, improve engagement numbers. Had the agency only focused on short-term results, the KPIs would’ve remained lower, and the client would not have developed a better understanding of employees’ interests.

Answering clients’ demands for ROI on communication and PR requires a combination of establishing clear KPIs, tracking progress, communicating results effectively and focusing on long-term impact.

By utilizing these strategies, you can effectively demonstrate the value of your services and help clients understand their true ROI from communication and PR.

The Second City—a world-renowned comedy club and theatre school—is famous for its “Yes, and” mantra, which requires its comedians to always use a “yes, and” response during improv. Instead of shutting doors, this creates more opportunities – and more laughs.

Let this inspire your marketing efforts by focusing on how your team can produce a “yes, and” response from clients, without the funny business. By building upon work that’s already proven successful – and strong relationships already forged – PR and marketing agencies will position themselves to meet future KPIs and grow their business line. 

Brad Kostka
President, Roopco
Brad Kostka is president of Roopco, a strategic marketing and PR agency for B2B companies seeking to amplify their communications. The firm specializes in crafting and disseminating compelling content that drives measurable business impact. Roopco helps its clients increase awareness, generate qualified leads and close more sales. For nearly three decades, Brad has provided strategic communication counsel to organizations including global, publicly traded corporations and private equity firms. Over the course of his career, he has been involved in communicating more than 100 transactions for strategic and financial buyers.

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