Thought Leadership

How To Prove PR ROI Through Multi-Touch Attribution

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*This article was provided by Cision, a PRSA partner.

 Ninety-five percent of communicators measure their public relations efforts, but 53 percent list measurement as a top skills gap. With today’s new technologies and easily-accessible data, why are so many still getting it wrong?

“Communication professionals want to be able to cleanly tie their initiatives to a tangible return, but there are so many intangibles that come into play,” says Caitlin Jamali, senior research analyst, Cision Global Insights.

When it comes to PR measurement, there are too many variables involved, and you’ll never be able to account for everything. But with a holistic approach and a comprehensive strategy, you can gain a deeper understanding of the value of your communication efforts.

So how best to understand the impact of your efforts and measure success? You may need to consider a multi-touch attribution model.

What Is Multi-Touch Attribution?

How did your customers first hear about you? What channels are they interacting with most often? What campaigns are most successful at driving them down the funnel? These questions and more can be answered through multi-touch attribution.

Multi-touch attribution distributes credit for conversions among all of the communication customers come across throughout their journey. Single-touch models give all of the credit for a conversion only to one campaign, usually the first or last. But this type of analysis isn’t realistic.

Leads typically come across six to eight touchpoints before converting, but they could interact with even more. If you’re only taking into account the first or last campaign they touch, you won’t have an accurate understanding of how successful each of your campaigns or channels are.

You need to implement a multi-touch attribution model to truly understand the impact of your communication. Here are six steps for utilizing multi-touch attribution to find PR measurement success:

  1. Understand Your Limitations

Measuring PR ROI is never 100 percent accurate, and tools that claim to do so are oversimplified and misleading. There are so many factors that influence PR and marketing that it’s impossible to measure them all. Factors such as word-of-mouth are too difficult to capture in a database.

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of value in first-person testimonials, and they hold even more weight than other touchpoints,” says Jamali.

But word of mouth can’t be tracked as simply as other touchpoints, like white papers and webinars. So how do you know how much of an impact word-of-mouth is having on your audience? Turn to social media.

“When something works people go to social channels to sing praises,” says Jamali. “They also go there when something doesn’t work well.”

Because of this, you need to track what your audience says about your brand online through social listening. Just know that social media is a small part of the conversation surrounding your brand. You won’t be able to listen in on the conversations that happen on the street or over the water cooler.

  1. Go Beyond Financial Impact

Traditionally, ROI refers to the financial impact of your efforts. But in public relations and marketing, there’s much more than just the dollars and cents. Just as there are intangible variables that go into your PR ROI, there are also intangible benefits that come out of it.

Your ROI should include metrics to track your brand and social impact, such as share of voice and sentiment. You should also compare against competitors to see how you stack up in your industry.

You may not be able to show how your share of voice is resulting in leads and customers, but you will be able to show progress over time.

  1. Look At The Big Picture

“People are understanding that there’s more at play, and they need to start looking at the big picture,” says Jamali.

Because leads now interact with so many touchpoints before converting, tracking their journey is complex. Besides tracking all of the factors and variables involved, conversions now take time, and determining a campaign’s success may take longer than you think.

With multi-touch attribution, you’ll be able to track patterns and trends and understand the distance between campaigns and conversion. For example, you may discover that those who attend webinars convert quicker than those who download white papers.

Patterns don’t always remain the same, though. Over time, one campaign or channel may become less effective. Because of this, you need to ensure you are continuously analyzing your data and testing to see what works best.

  1. Centralize Your Data

With so much data to gather, tracking everything in multiple systems can be a hassle and lead to inefficiency and inaccuracy. Most companies use a CRM system to track their data, but these systems were originally designed for sales teams. That means that marketing teams are unable to customize and need to also set up a marketing performance management system to track all communication.

In order to streamline your measurement process, you need to sync all of your data sources, including your marketing automation system, website analytics and CRM system.

Once you have everything set up and connected, you’ll be able to better analyze your data and get a sense of the big picture to identify what campaigns and channels are most successful.

  1. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Multi-touch attribution gives you a more accurate sense of what campaigns are leading to conversions by distributing credit for the conversion across all of the touchpoints a customer comes across.

But does one campaign deserve more credit than another? Weighted models assign credit to campaigns differently, giving more credit to some campaigns over others. Here are three examples of how you can weight your campaigns:

Even/linear: All campaigns receive equal credit for the conversion. If a customer touches five campaigns, each one will receive 20 percent of the credit.

Time decay: The last campaign before a conversion receives the most credit. Out of four campaigns, the fourth would receive 40 percent, the third 30 percent, the second 20 percent and the first 10 percent.

U-shaped/Position: The first and last campaigns receive more credit than the middle interactions. Forty percent of the credit is given to both the first and last touchpoints, while the remaining 20 percent is distributed evenly among the rest.

Choosing the right weighted model may depend on your industry or your business type. If you’re just starting in multi-touch attribution, use an even/linear model. See what makes sense for you; you may decide to choose a different weighted model later on.

  1. Invest In Analysis

Jamali says many communicators understand the value of their data but they don’t know how to put it all together. This is where having an expert, whether internal or external, to sift through the data and find the insights is crucial.

“Public relations is already a full-time job. Proving ROI is another job on top of it,” Jamali says.

Measuring ROI is not a one-and-done process, and it’s not something you can do occasionally or half-heartedly. You need to have someone dedicated to analyzing your data, synthesizing the information and making sense out of it so you can do your job better.

*This article was provided by Cision, a PRSA partner.


Michelle Vangel, VP, Insight Solutions

Michelle has nearly 20 years of experience helping global Fortune 500 enterprise clients derive actionable insight from media research. She started her career in traditional media research, and then moved into helping clients leverage the power of social intelligence to achieve business results. Michelle has led innovative global programs helping clients such as Ford, FedEx, Cisco, GSK, Microsoft, American Express, Janssen and more make data-based business decisions. She lives in Portsmouth, NH, with her husband and son.

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