A large research budget is nice, but you can prove PR’s worth without one. It’s important to think ahead to December 2015, when management will assess PR’s performance and the degree to which it and you met expectations, delivered on promises and contributed to the success of the company. As we know, communicating PR’s value remains among the profession’s most daunting challenges. Yet if PR pros commit to doing what’s required with prescience, insight and determination, your daily actions will yield better and proveable results for the brand or organization you are representing.
Below is a step-by-step approach to proving PR’s contribution to the top and bottom lines and communicating it to upper management.
1. Assess your organization’s objectives and match them to your PR strategy and tactics. Inquire directly and indirectly. The direct method requires you to ask management now about what the organization seeks to achieve in 2015: Increased sales? Game-changing product launches? Attracting great talent?
The indirect route calls for reviewing executive speeches, annual reports and industry issues to add context to what you’ve learned from management. Avoid limiting your plans solely to PR objectives; extend your vision to influencing the organization’s overall success.
2. Uncover management’s often-secret evaluation preferences for PR. A brief online survey using free tools enables you to determine management’s preferences for evaluating PR success: Positive media coverage? Beat the competition? Once you’ve determined management’s preferences and the organization’s needs, align your PR tactics and strategies in ways that drive undeniable success.
3. Set objectives that are measureable, meaningful and reasonable. The key to proving PR’s value is to set goals that align with the organization and satisfy management’s preferences for determining value.
Once known, we must translate this knowledge into objectives that can be clearly articulated (measureable), easily reflected in organizational objectives (meaningful) and achievable (reasonable). These criteria ensure that results are monitored and evaluated throughout the year, not just in December.
4. Commit to measure performance versus objectives. The simplest way to demonstrate success is to set quantifiable objectives aligned with the organization and authorized by management—and then beat them. The objectives you set with management must foster easy evaluation in your reports.
For example, if an objective is to keep the volume of negative coverage below 10 percent and you achieve 9 percent, use your report to reinforce your success.
5. Deliver results in the language of business. In setting our objectives at the beginning of the process, we will discover that management does not understand or appreciate measures like “buzz,” “hits” and “media awareness” and yet, many professionals continue to confuse management by using this sort of jargon.
Instead, consider the language of the boardroom: Presenting your data in terms of “results versus objectives” or “results compared to competitors” and “results over time” makes it easy for everyone to understand your success.
In many cases, management need not fully understand the methodology. For example, if you score a “9” and your competitor scores a “7” and last year you scored an “8,” what management needs to know is that you beat the competition and improved on the previous year.
6. Communicate performance consistently and constantly, whether management asks for evaluation or not. Even if management hasn’t asked, your reports will create an appetite for more measurement and, over time, more public relations resources. Remember that interim reporting throughout the year allows for course correction while there’s still time to refine.
Conventional wisdom suggests that proving value requires a big budget and sophisticated research. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While resources certainly help, the most important requirements are your commitment to measure and your willingness to negotiate quantifiable objectives with management.
Mark Weiner is CEO of PRIME Research. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @weinermark
This article originally appeared in the January 12, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.