With 7 percent annual growth, some $16 billion in generated revenue last year, and nearly five public relations professionals to every journalist, the odds are in PR’s favor. The industry is undeniably strong. So why does it still sometimes get a bad rap?
Executives and their companies have a sort of symbiotic relationship with their agencies. PR professionals work hand-in-hand with media contacts to craft relevant stories for their readers while also trying to promote their clients’ agendas, products, and services. But most executives experience a major disconnect between desired outcomes when it comes to their corporate PR initiatives, leaving them frustrated at an agency’s inability to deliver results.
Here’s why, and what can be done about it.
1. Weighing Intent vs. Outcomes
PR seems to be the final frontier when it comes to accountability. Most companies know PR is a necessity to get their name out there, but business leaders like CMOs are often unclear about how they can actually connect the dots between PR and other business outcomes.
ROI is a powerful metric that needs to yield results in the minds of other C-suite executives and board members too. It’s important to tie PR to measurable business results whether it’s raising brand awareness, driving revenue, or more.
To become effective for executives, PR needs to become something that can be tracked and proven to play a role in driving tangible business outcomes rather than simply represent feel-good — but ultimately meaningless — numbers.
2. A Distinct Lack of Communication
Executives and professionals want PR tied to outcomes, but a key part of this next step is establishing clear communication for how to achieve that — which is more difficult than it sounds.
The more transparent executives are with goals, the more likely the PR team can have an impact on overall strategy. PR teams may think they’re killing it, and meeting the expectations of their clients, but an information disconnect is a distinct possibility.
Effective PR teams that hold themselves accountable will always ask obvious yet important questions about specific, measurable KPIs to really nail the expectations and hit the ground running. This goes for kickoff meetings, but also consistent touchpoints over an entire engagement. It’s a difficult, client-facing conversation, but if all parties know the real expectations, then set KPIs will lead to desired business outcomes.
This is also if an executive uses an external agency for all PR initiatives in the first place. Internal teams tend to be siloed, effectively cutting off communications for tangential parties. This negatively impacts the potential for PR teams and programs to drive desired outcomes down the line.
3. Shooting for Quality But Not Cutting Out Quantity
The perennial question on every PR-focused CMO’s mind: quantity or quality? Given a binary choice, most would choose quality due to the prestige and level of exposure such top tier coverage nets them. But don’t count out quantity altogether.
There can be a premium on quantity if it helps meet KPIs that lead to desired outcomes — especially when executives and professionals express concerns linking expectations and results.
Concrete PR results at topline outlets are inherently inconsistent, and any agency can maintain a continuum of small-hit coverage. But only efficiently minded agencies will strike a balance by matching and amplifying the appropriate ongoing cadence of assets to specific buyer personas or ancillary benefits such as SEO — thus driving results on a balanced and effective spectrum.
Executives clearly have ideas about what they want from PR, but they’re usually left throwing their arms up frustrated at the lack of appropriate results. It’s imperative for executives and teams to define and communicate specific, measurable goals supported by robust streams of coverage. That level of acute alignment generates the effectiveness needed from most PR initiatives.
Posted by Daniela Mancinelli