1. Does the annual cost of our external PR company represent good value for money?
2. What is the most effective way of communicating on-line with our members?
My analyses and report follows.
1. PR Value
For Toastmasters value for money, or return on investment (ROI), might be considered to be the number of new membership fees achieved as a consequence of the money spent.
Marketing, PR and comms are related functions which are often confused. Marketing is a relatively short-term activity which seeks a return in direct sales. In contrast, PR tends to reap benefits over a longer period and is focused on building reputation by generating positive media coverage and stakeholder communication. Messages delivered through PR channels (such as articles, conference speakers and reputable blogs) are subconsciously regarded as more legitimate than those presented through direct marketing and sales tactics. PR is therefore more associated with brand awareness and attracting new customers through in-bound marketing techniques rather than more traditional direct sales.
It is therefore unusual to expect PR to directly provide a return on investment, i.e. increased membership, an activity more associated with marketing campaigns. In general, the PR industry agrees that ROI is not the appropriate metric of success hence they use metrics such as reach and coverage in external publications. Last year (2016/17) our external PR company, Panpathic, achieved external coverage equivalent to £863K worth of advertising. This amazing reach equates to a whopping ROI of 12,975% based on our joint spend on PR with District 71.
Whilst the ratio of membership fees to PR costs may not be considered relevant by the PR industry, the cost of PR is nevertheless a cost to our members that the DLT need to justify. One way to test whether PR contributes directly to people joining Toastmasters is to understand where members first heard about Toastmasters prior to joining. The on-line survey therefore posed this question to the D91 current membership.
Some 4.3% of the respondents said that they first heard about Toastmasters via newspaper or magazine articles and adverts. A further 2.5% of the respondents also said they heard about Toastmasters in the press, but just not the first time. So, for simplicity, let’s assume a 5% impact. The running average number of new members per year for Districts 71 & 91 is 4,152 (and showing an upward trend). Therefore, based on 5% who first hear about Toastmasters in the UK press, the likely revenue generated for District 91 equates to an ROI of 26% and a payback period of approximately 9 months (but a similar benefit is also afforded to Toastmasters Central who take a proportion of membership fees, so more like a 4 month payback period overall).
These figures represent extremely good value, but there is more. In marketing it is generally agreed that 7 touchpoints across 3 different media are required before action, in our case membership, is taken. So, the external articles are also contributing to the 7 touchpoints. The articles are not just placed in papers and journals but also on-line in blogs and podcasts – this will enhance the SEO of Toastmasters on web searches. Some 17% of our respondents first heard about Toastmasters through search engines. The ROI estimate of the revenue above is therefore conservative.
There are, of course, also non-tangible benefits of our PR campaign. When our members see articles in the general press, it verifies that they are part of a credible professional organisation with broad reach, and it also offers a sense of belonging and pride. Members who write articles for us also benefit from us helping their personal development.
We also asked our members how they preferred to be kept up to date on-line. The figure to the right shows that 82% of the respondents chose “Emailed short e-newsletter (with links)” as their first and second preferences. The second preferred media is “regular short email updates”.
Furthermore, 55% of the respondents said they preferred monthly comms updates, with 18% saying fortnightly and 17% quarterly.
We will therefore continue to produce a monthly e-newsletter backed up occasional additional emails and regular social media updates. Check out our recent e-newsletters here.
If you enjoyed taking our survey then please help Dee with his one on District 91 conferences and contests.
Thanks you all again for your help.
D91 PR Manager