Note: A version of this content appeared in the August 4, 2020 edition of PRNEWS. For subscription information, please visit:

Most PR practitioners combine “generating a return on PR investment” with “proving PR value” when the two hold very different meanings:  “ROI” refers to a quantifiable financial return while “value” is a subjective measure that changes from one organization to the next (or even from one person to another within the same organization). PR-ROI comes in three forms: Connecting PR with sales (the sexy one); Avoiding catastrophic cost (the big one); and Efficiency, (the most accessible). Efficiency means “doing more with less or for less.” This month, we focus on PR efficiency as a contributor to ROI using a case study from Adobe, the multinational software company.

A longstanding perception of Adobe’s executive team held that a higher volume of coverage across all media drove better business results than a lower volume of high quality coverage in target media.  The communications team explored this perception through a data-informed, fact-based communications analysis program.

Objectives included:

  • Assess Adobe’s relative performance against competition
  • Measure key reputation attributes
  • Provide Share of Voice (a measure of the market your brand owns compared to your competitors) on the quantity and quality of coverage vs the competition
  • Uncover new opportunities to reinforce Adobe’s advantage and mitigate any competitor’s advantage
  • Simplify its monitoring and evaluation program through consolidation, integration and research-based decision-making

To achieve these objectives, Adobe implemented a new media insights framework applying proven media analysis methods supplemented by innovative data science methods, including:

  • N-gram (predictive computational linguistic and probability analysis);
  • Audience and media segmentation research;
  • Hybrid automated/human media analyses;
  • Attribution analysis (a sophisticated method for evaluating the performance of a portfolio or fund manager)

Research conducted under the leadership of Adobe’s Jennifer Bruce, Ph.D., a member of the IPR Measurement Commission, confirmed that a core set of media outlets delivered the greatest return on investment for Adobe. Rather than the existing approach that sought to generate the highest volume of stories, the research revealed enhanced measures that combined outputs, outtakes and behavioural outcomes. These enhanced measures included:

  • Size of target C-suite audience reached vs. the competition (outputs)
  • Presence of Adobe’s unique product attributes vs. the competition and generic attributes (outputs)
  • Degree of target C-suite audience social engagement and amplification vs. the competition (outtakes)
  • Number of target C-Suite visits from earned media to Adobe’s website using advanced attribution analysis  (behavioural outcomes)

The research revealed that 65% of the original target media list of 3,000 outlets generated only one story in the past year while a research-based variation of 550 media generated 76% of all quality coverage. With these findings, executives agreed to focus Adobe’s media outreach and measurement program on the media that delivered optimal results (even if it meant lower quantities of coverage).

The Adobe communications team developed and executed plans to drive the desired results.

  • Audience targeting analysis identified four C-level “purchase decision-maker” audiences: Chief Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), Chief Data Officers (CDOs), and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs)
  • Analysis of C-level media consumption habits reduced the proactive target list from 3,000 to 550 and then to just 150
  • Research identified the best proactive messaging opportunities as being 1) important to C-suite buyers and, 2) unique to Adobe, thereby avoiding generic attributes that could help the competition
  • Communications delivered customer success stories to more credibly convey unique attributes as “peer to peer” endorsements among C-suite executives

To uncover efficiencies and simplify, Adobe consolidated all monitoring and analysis with a single source for international content aggregation, analysis, reporting, attribution and research-based consultation.

The research and analysis team uncovered the following opportunities to drive better decision-making:

  • Applied n-gram analysis to assess terminology surrounding coverage
  • Employed attribution analysis to identify the media with the highest C-suite penetration based on job title, industry, company size and media consumption patterns
  • For industry topics, the researchers developed keyword taxonomies representing each topic to ensure a balanced, scalable approach for benchmarking
  • Expert human analysts identified relevant and specific product dictionaries
  • For broad topics like innovation and leadership, automated analysis would not suffice
  • Measured proactive and organic coverage for Adobe and the competition and what triggered the coverage (press release, blog, etc.)

Evaluation of Success / ROI / Results

  • When given a choice between quantity of media coverage versus quality of business engagement (and its related efficiencies), the executives opted for higher-level C-suite engagement.
  • Adobe consolidated a number of media monitoring services to a single source after determining that the chosen firm captured 82% of all content while all other sources combined captured only 37% of coverage
  • Through a single global methodology, Adobe reduced the number of research reports from 900+ to uncover time and cost savings estimated at 25%. The centralized approach to monitoring and analysis reduced agency involvement by hundreds of hours with related costs and reporting turnaround times reduced by 67%.

The new approach formed the foundation for more fully integrated marketing and communications decisions.  Impossible to calculate in the past, the new approach enables correlation analysis between news coverage and internal data such as visits, trial and purchase behaviour. Further, data segmentation analysis revealed specific indicators for the optimal combinations. The communications team now knows, for example, the degree to which media type leads to increases in website traffic and trials, and which do not.  Return on investment continues to improve.

By revolutionizing their media monitoring and analysis framework, Adobe quantified the unique power of public relations to empower the enterprise as forcefully as any other marketing channel. As a result, Adobe executives control the levers to guide the company to even greater success while PR’s contribution to business results emerged as an important business driver.

This essay first appeared in PRNEWS.

Mark Weiner is Chief Insights Officer at Cision. Mark is also a Trustee for the Institute for Public Relations

Jennifer Bruce, Ph.D. is Group Manager of Communications Measurement & Insights within Adobe’s Global Marketing Organization.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *