More Clients Asking for Time-Specific ROI Estimates

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Here’s a message we saw shared on one of our PR/marketing Facebook groups this morning. It was written by a prospective client that has yet to sign with the firm in question but wants to justify its coming PR spend to managers:

“We would like to add some goals and targets against which we can measure. These could be number of placements, traffic from placements, tweets and retweets, etc. Could you outline some reasonable metrics for a 3-month engagement?”

We were taken aback by the “reasonable” specifics requested in this quote. Estimating the number of placements one can score in a three-month period is one thing, but predicting the social media “ripple effect” of tweets, retweets and subsequent clicks that will stem from those placements is, at best, an imprecise art.

It’s also a good reminder as to why PR analytics can be so difficult. Unless we’re working with some sort of “pay to play” mechanism, the effects of a good editorial placement can’t be quantified in this way — and any response to this request could prove problematic when that three-month window closes. While the client in this case claimed that it only wanted to create “some accountability” and promised not to pull a “you promised X clicks and we only got Y” move, the problem remains.

The general response to the post from others in the industry: aim low with estimates and try to “educate” clients so they will know not to ask for this sort of piece at the beginning of any such relationship in the future.

Our questions: how often does this sort of request arise, what is the best response, and how can we better lead clients to understand why it’s not particularly helpful?