Marketing executives assume that earned media via PR has a lower ROI or is less quantifiable toward lead generation outcomes in comparison to other approaches. These assumptions are not unfounded, as methods, definitions of outcome values, pricing and structural approaches can vary widely across PR firms. Plus, some elements can seem vague given the variables of the editorial coverage process.

However, if based on sound data, analysis and methods, PR can be a shockingly comprehensible and highly efficient strategy for driving leads.

Here are some common misconceptions from executive data marketers and the corresponding realities:

Assumption: Metrics cannot be assigned to cadence or reach of media placements.

Reality 1: Media placement metrics based on time, concept and program type are feasible if the firm has a proprietary body of collected data about outcomes. With a specialization in campaign “types,” the PR team can put together a composite of average outcomes over time.

Reality 2: Reviewing the depth and capacity of media outlets likely to cover a series of concepts of value to a company, as well as the content/concept assets available for utilization in the PR campaign, enables teams to benchmark potential reach.

Utilizing both methods, a great PR team can predetermine likely outcomes.

Assumption: PR cannot directly correlate to lead generation like other methods.

Reality: Like any marketing tactic, attribution of inbound leads can be seen via marketing automation and existing traffic analytic technologies. The trick is to benchmark based on current factors and monitor the published earned media pieces as they correlate to inbound traffic. The challenge for marketers is that PR lead generation is less linear. The data has to be analyzed in context of placement timing against either a current benchmark and/or an equation associated with how current, more linear tactics drive leads.

It’s important not to short-change the impact. Editorial coverage doesn’t disappear like most paid content, so the value of the placements continue on long after the initial pop of coverage.

Assumption: There is no predictive measure for how a PR campaign will impact lead generation.

Reality: This one is difficult. While analytics, case studies and formulas around time/budget-to-outcomes in PR are accessible and should be part of the conversation, actual predictions around the volume of likely inbound leads are tough. Many factors go into this, such as the company’s total existing marketing strategy; how deeply the company is already reaching its target market; and how varied the target personas are. Unfortunately, marketer case studies surrounding this tend to be anecdotal versus systematic.

Assumption: It’s hard to understand the actual value of a PR campaign.

Reality: Correct, it is hard to understand the full value of a PR campaign—but NOT because the value is low. How does one quantify the impact of a Forbes article profiling the company with 77 million unique views per month? How does one quantify the impact of several articles appearing simultaneously in Tier 1 trade media reaching ideal personas? While these aspects may be challenging to grasp at first, they can become the X factor.

If executed with a framework based on data – a compelling, researched strategy and intensity to convey key messages – a PR campaign’s impact can be pivotal to a company’s growth, lead generation strategy and overall value in the market. PR may be a less linear marketing strategy to measure, but campaigns can be set up with far greater predictability and anticipated levels of ROI than many executive marketers assume.