Making a Case for More PR Budget

Making a Case for More PR Budget

As social media tools are made available for "free" brand management and broadcasting, the idea that an increase in a PR budget makes sense becomes suspect. Here, Michelle Garrett shows you how to justify more budget as PR pros get smarter about the ROI of publicity.
Michelle Garrett
September 24, 2017

You’ve just finished up a PR campaign that was a success. The client was happy. Your boss was thrilled.

Now, you’d like to go bigger, with a campaign that requires more resources, more technology—and more money.

Queue the Debbie Downer music.

For many in PR, making a case to increase the budget can be a challenge. How will you overcome objections to your request for more dollars?

How to Overcome Objections

Sometimes, it’s about changing the perception of PR. If leaders view public relations efforts as expenditures versus investments, you may struggle to make a case for more budget. However, if you can change the way leaders think about PR, you may have a better chance of securing more funds.

One Way to Do This Is to Show ROI

“The old adage that we can’t manage what we don’t measure is doubly true when it comes to PR: We won’t fund what we can’t manage or measure,” says Christopher Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology for SHIFT Communications. “Marketers and communicators looking for more budget need to be able to articulate what the increase will mean in terms of business impact.”

“When making the case, it’s important to communicate value, not just outputs or needs. The one thing to avoid is to try to justify budget increases on the basis of cost alone,” says Tim O’Brien, Principal, O’Brien Communications. “Your client doesn’t care if your costs have gone up, or even that you may have worked twice as long to get the results you originally promised. It’s best to put the focus on the future, the kind of reasonable results the client can expect, and the increased value to the client of those possible outcomes.” 

Another consideration may be to take a look at what the competition is doing. Nothing gets the C-suite as fired up as talk about beating competitors. The argument could be that if you want to one-up the competition, you’re going to need more budget. Media monitoring can help here by giving you insight into who’s covering the competition and what they’re saying. It can also measure sentiment.

Building Your Case

This all sounds good. But, how do you actually build a case?

Determine what activities drive the business forward and what activities have positive ROI, says Penn. “If I put $1 into the PR machine, what comes out? If it’s not at least $1.01, then PR isn’t going to get more money.”

“Then, if we want to kick it up a notch, we start using advanced statistics and measurement to build models based on the ROI we generate,” continued Penn. “If I know that putting $1 into the PR machine on average makes $1.25 come out, then I want to know how to get to $1.30, $1.50, $2, $5. How much more return could we capture?”

This is where technologies like predictive analytics and machine learning come into play. Predictive analytics use data to forecast what’s likely to happen. “Once we know on average what our efforts yield, we augment those efforts with data science to know when to ramp spending up and when to cool things off,” says Penn.

Using predictive analytics to project needs in advance can be a winning formula when you’re trying to increase the budget. To do this, you need data.

These Data Sources Can Help

What sources of data can help you make the case?

  • Publication data from media monitoring systems, like Meltwater
  • Web analytics from systems like Google Analytics
  • Trend data from providers like Google
  • SEO data
  • Social media data

Penn stresses that you need to start with “clean” data. If your data is tainted from the start, your predictions will be wrong—which could throw off your entire campaign.

Also, use care in selecting which data is best for your needs. Data with too little detail can lead to inaccurate predictions, as can data with too much detail.

Move Forward

Of course, you’ll want to review and assess progress along the way. Be willing to make adjustments if the campaign is underperforming. And at the end, evaluate the results to see how it went overall—and hopefully to leverage your success into an even bigger budget request for your next public relations push.