Determining ROI for media coverage

How does one measure the ROI of a media or public relations initiative?

Finding a solid answer to this question is not as easy as you’d think. Most of what you’ll find will either justify editorial coverage as “priceless” or claim that it has value that can’t be measured in the same way as the impact of a new piece of equipment or a more fuel-efficient delivery truck.

Still, where there’s a will, there’s a way. A Canadian industry group has come up with a comprehensive standard to judge ROI on media relations efforts: MR2P, the Media Relations Ratings Points system. Designed by the Canadian Public Relations Society‘s Measurement Committee, the program is described in a user manual available from the website:

The MRP (Media Relations Rating Points) system provides communications and marketing professionals with an easy-to-use tool that measures the effectiveness of any public relations campaign. The 10-point rating system can be used for any type of media coverage (i.e. print, TV, radio, online). The MRP system can also be used to measure crisis communications and unplanned media attention after the fact.

The primary objective of the MRP system is to create a standardized reporting mechanism that can be widely accepted and utilized with ease to measure coverage results. This system can be easily customized by Company or by project. MRP provides clear metrics to evaluate media coverage, track total impressions and cost per contact.

Each piece of media coverage is scored on a scale of one to 10. The first five points are for “tone” (with positive tone of the piece in question scoring higher), while the remaining five points are awarded for any of five criteria from a list, including such things as company or brand mention, use of a photo or image, a spokesperson quote, inclusion of the website, a call to action, and others. The total score of a media campaign is the average of the tone score plus the average of the criteria score.

Sounds impressive—but does the system really work? Canadian writer Ben Boudreau appeared satisfied with the system when he evaluated his own PR experiences as a finalist in a Canadian writing contest in 2007; he scored six out of 10 (60 percent). Brendan Hodgson blogs about his company’s use of MR2P when they rolled out a PR campaign for a large client. Their final score: 84 percent.

Hodgson was pleased with the performance, but only because the numbers matched what his clients told him: they were thrilled. My opinion? It’s great that there is a system to quantify PR and media campaign success and ROI. However, it is more important to meet the client’s expectations, whatever they may be. As Hodgson says of their expectations, “If this is how they define success, then run with it.”

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