Communication ROI matters as much – or more – for public involvement

Budget constraints often restrict public involvement professionals from conducting the kind of marketing effectiveness analysis common in commercial enterprises.

That’s why bits of research like the following online marketing comparison from Marketing Sherpa are so helpful.  They suggest possible courses of action, whether or not you agree that marketing and public involvement are completely analagous.

(Discussion topic for the next five minutes: yes they are, only the return policies differ.  Compare and contrast. Please show your work.)

As Marketing Sherpa notes:

“Consumer marketers rank house email, SEO and paid search the highest for return on investment. Many marketers plan on boosting budgets for these online tactics this year, with display ads taking the biggest hit.

B2C Marketing Tactics that Rank Highest for ROI
View Chart Online
Click here to see larger, printable version of this chart

For years, we’ve asked consumer marketers to rank the ROI of various online marketing tactics. Here are their rankings for Q4 2008. The size of the bubbles represents their relative share of online budgets. 

House email, SEO and paid search continue to enjoy the best ROI. The biggest share of marketers plan on boosting their budgets in these areas. Many predictions peg the growth in search budgets as below previous levels with some companies (especially retailers) pulling away from expensive brand terms. Search may end up faring well through the recession, however, within a larger overall shift from brand tactics toward the more dependable and measurable direct online tactics.

Display advertising appears to be the big loser in 2009. It gets low ROI reviews from marketers at a time when brand in general is under-valued. This may give advertisers some leverage in negotiating for a higher share of premium ad space in hybrid deals – as well as an inexpensive opportunity to test some of the higher-performing tactics, such as contextual and behavioral targeting.”

One implication of the bubble chart, it seems to me, is that the ongoing struggle to clearly communicate in the public involvement field will continue to intensify. 

To fully exploit paid search, SEO or house email requires full commitment to understanding how our audiences think and talk about transportation, infrastrucuture and public policy – and then using their vocabulary first rather than that of engineers or other specifialized technical professionals.

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