The majority of Propllr’s clients are startups. The majority of startups are founded by engineering-types. The majority of engineering-types are quant-driven. The majority of quant-driven people are, well, quant-driven. So when we pitch our services to these quant-driven engineer startup founders, we often hear this question:

How will I know the ROI on my PR spend?

This is where too many PR people often hem and haw – at least those PR people who work most with modestly budgeted startups as opposed to deep-pocketed multinational corporations.

But the hemming and hawing has to stop. Understanding – and then maximizing – PR ROI is not only possible, it’s necessary.

While measurement is imperfect, there are a number of ways to gauge success, even if some feel a bit less than robust from an analytics perspective. Here are some ideas to both measure the ROI of your startup’s PR budget and to maximize its impact:

1 – Custom Links & Landing Pages: Whether via redirects or custom landing pages, custom links can be a great way to gauge the impact of your PR efforts. It works like this: you place an article in an outlet reaching a specific portion of your audience – in that article you link to a page focused on that audience, a la: www.your-url.com/the-articles-specific-audience.

If you keep that link unique  to your PR efforts, this approach will not only show the audience-specific impact of your media relations program over time (just tally all the visitors) – it will also lead to stronger conversion, because you’ll be showing the audience content that’s relevant to them today.

2 – Media Promotions: We love to tell our clients to give stuff away – especially if their business is scalable and the cost of doing so is negligible. Not everyone likes this approach, however, and indeed it can have the negative impact of discouraging customer follow-through (if they don’t have a financial stake in using your service, they may more quickly desert you).

There is a happy middle ground however – the publication-specific promotion. For example, when you’re trying to get your new cloud management dashboard reviewed by a leading IT outlet, allow them to give their readers a unique coupon code – maybe for a discount, maybe for an extended trial period. This helps you track that very specific media activity and has the added benefit of helping build stronger relationships with reporters because you’re giving them something of value for their readers.

3 – For God’s Sake, Repurpose: It can be shocking when companies fail to fully capitalize on PR program successes. Almost all have a press page, most put publication logos on their home page as trust symbols, but they don’t go further. Use the article as an excuse to reach back out to your customers and prospects – this works particularly well when an article focuses on the needs of a specific customer niche.

Another simple idea is to include story links in your  email signature. This can range from adding a company profile link to every employee email signature, to adding in a niche story for team members who work exclusively in that area.

4 – Ask One Question: There’s one simple question to ask – “Does having these media successes make your job easier?” In other words, does the PR program make it easier for your CTO to recruit great talent, does it make it easier for your business development people to have the credibility to pitch a big client, does it make it easier for you to get in front of investors, does it make it easier to differentiate your company from the competition, and so on. That one question is often all it takes.

5 – Give It Time: This sounds like the ultimate cop-out by a PR guy, and I almost didn’t add it in here even though it’s totally legit. But just like a value stock may take time to bring returns, patience is rewarded. We’ve seen our share of instant return from our PR efforts, but it’s impossible to predict what will move the needle the most. That said, just as with making a long-term investment, you should monitor overall program performance and then – if returns are not evident over time – cut the cord.

Follow the five steps above, and you’ll not only gauge PR ROI, you’ll increase it.

-JI