At a recent PR News 3-hour workshop on measuring public affairs activities, an interesting challenge was presented to the attendees and BurrellesLuce trainer Johna Burke. A PR executive lamented that it’s perceived by her senior management that she’s so effectively managing her PR department that there’s no need for additional staff or resources. The better she performs with the resources she has, the less likely she can effectively petition for a bigger budget. So how can she get more money in her budget; how can she hire an additional staff person so she has, um, time to breathe and a fighting chance at improving her PR activities?
I hear this problem often from PR professionals, who are dealing with a legacy of comparatively lower budgets than their Marketing counterparts and in which proving PR’s value is a Holy Grail endeavor. Let’s put aside the fact that in this challenging economy it’s probably not the best time to be asking for a bigger slice. Because it turns out this story has little to do with measurement.
PR measurement has become the license of the trade — if you can’t measure your PR, then you shouldn’t be driving your organization’s communications efforts. So let’s assume that you read PR News every week and check out our Measurement channel and Webinars for additional ideas. And let’s assume you have the dashboard and the other basic measurement tools. Interestingly, the PR professional at this PR News workshop had all that and was spending an afternoon and the following day learning more about measurement from our PR News conference trainers.
After speaking with her at the break, during which she indulged in not one but too energy bars, I realized that her challenge was not so much the activity of measuring. Rather, it was how to communicate with her boss. How to ask for more without feeling like she might get fired or, at best, looked upon as a less competent employee. In other words, she didn’t have the courage of her convictions. She was, after all, a pretty good communicator from what I could tell. Among her peers, she knew how to talk the talk. But with her superiors she became a shrinking violet who didn’t believe in her ideas or her ability to communicate need. Turns out she hasn’t even asked for additional resources. “I was getting vibes from my manager that I was doing so great that he doesn’t need to worry about spending more on PR,” she told me. Operating on “vibes” and failing to communicate PR’s successes are a recipe for disaster for PR professionals who’ve come a long way from being perceived as press release pushers.
— Diane Schwartz