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August-September 2009 Publicity Tip

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How to get a good return on money spent on publicity
Tom Ciesielka from TC Public Relations

Return on Investment. Everyone loves it, and it can apply to everything. Let's say you buy a shirt for $50. You wear that shirt once a week and it lasts you five years. Each time you wear it, you receive five compliments on it. That's less than $1 per month for 5 years plus 1200 compliments. I'd say that is an incredible ROI, and sadly, I've never had that with any of my shirts.

Measuring the ROI on your public relations investment can be a bit more complicated but necessary nonetheless. It can be difficult to specifically track book sales as a result of your public relations efforts. However, there are ways to ensure that the money you put into public relations is well spent.

Measuring ROI

Ms. Ad and Mr. PR are friends. But they are competitive. Mr. PR likes to show how he can get the same or better coverage for equal or less money. For example, let's say your book is featured in a two-page article in a magazine. You can calculate how much that article would be in advertising dollars by finding out how much two full-page advertisements cost in that particular publication. It is the same for radio and TV interviews and also online publicity. Instead of purchasing ad space (which anyone can do), using public relations generates awareness through a third party, which is worth more. When choosing between two action movies, would you go see the one that has an ad in the entertainment section or the one that has rave, four-star reviews from movie critics?

Count the publicity

Often clients will come to us and say that they would like to be on this TV program, in this publication or on this radio show. We encourage clients to tell us their “wishes” because it helps us know what we must achieve to make them happy. You can determine your PR ROI by counting the number of placements that an agency secures. And good public relations agencies should always be accountable for their work by showing clients what they have achieved each month. Going one step further would be to evaluate the amount of new book sales that come in while your book's name is being spread throughout the media world. It is NOT too bold to ask readers how they heard about your book. If they say “that article in the N.Y. Times,” then you should send your PR agency a fruit basket.

See (and hear) the groundswell

To add to the list of 5,643,738 awesome things about social media, there are programs available that allow us to see the effect that public relations efforts have on voices in the online world. Social media monitoring is a great way of showing what people are saying about your book in blogs, microblogs, chat rooms and other social networks. The goal of an online PR campaign is to start a “groundswell,” meaning a rumble of online chatter that leads to more people talking about the book (and linking to book's Web site) and so on until the ground “swells” with publicity.

Don't be shy in asking your PR agency about ROI. Believe me, we know that it's important and we know that ROI is ultimately what it all boils down to. So please, next time you see me, compliment me on my shirt.

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