Selling Up: Proving PR’s Worth To Senior Management


These days, it's all about selling--selling a product or service to a customer, selling an idea to a client, selling yourself to a potential employer. For communications professionals, though, selling is old hat. PR's rise to prominence within organizations across all industries is a direct result of leaders within the discipline who collectively sold its value to senior management. But this collective success doesn't mean that every individual battle has been won; on the contrary, regardless of the C-suite's view of their value, communications executives need to constantly remind them of it, not through words, but through actions. "[As a communicator,] you must make yourself more valuable from management's perspective," says Jim Lukaszewski, chairman and president of the Lukaszewski Group. "Focus on your getting the invitation, rather than your function." With that, here's how: *Be a good listener, and know their weaknesses. When engaging the C-suite, Lukaszewski recommends talking less and listening more, as this helps you identify their priorities and how you can address them. His tips for being a good listener include: Facing the person or group squarely; Adopting an open, constructive posture; Leaning toward the individual or group to show interest; Making good eye contact; and, Questioning them reflectively by asking who, what, where, when, why and how. Listening attentively will also help you identify management's weaknesses--the most common of which being failure to perform and poor people skills--and, in turn, anticipate traps that you can help them avoid. "Help them survive and succeed, and you will survive and succeed," Lukaszewski says. *Be consistent in all brand messaging. The brand that you represent is the personification of your strategic value, so always ensure it is the healthiest that it can be. "Clarity of brand--the emotional connection you seek to make with your target audience--is a crucial first step," says Shana Harris, SVP, Warschawski, and Susan Goodell, senior director, Warshawski. "It's the foundation for all initiatives." *Know what you need. Having a strong brand is the foundation for creating PR worth, but launching initiatives to communicate that brand's value to stakeholders requires resources. Obtaining them is where senior management support becomes critical. "Always determine the resources you need to build an effective and measurable PR program," says Mary Wong, president of the Office Depot Foundation. "Assess the big picture, clarify your focus and collaborate with [other functions that can support your efforts]." To achieve this effective collaboration, though, all silos within communications and marketing sub-functions must be eliminated. That may require you to lobby for more integrated, cross-functional teams, or to recommend a restructuring to better enable partnerships. "Key messages should support the brand and remain consistent throughout all PR and marketing initiatives, regardless of tactics," say Harris and Goodell. "Integrated campaigns reinforce the brand at every touch point with target audiences and achieve business goals accordingly." *Ensure that your communications goals dovetail with management's--and the organization's--overall goals. This best practice segues directly from Goodell and Harris' latter statement. Lukaszewski picks up where they left off by advising communications executives to "work through a PR planning system to ensure that your efforts are consistent with business goals. Plan [in the context of] management's perspective: Will aspects of the business fail or not progress without this? Does it help the boss achieve his or her goals? Will it make money? Will it save money?" *Show proof of performance for every initiative. "Learn how PR impacts company effectiveness and growth," Wong says, underscoring the importance of the following quantitative and qualitative measures. Quantitative: Impressions, circulation, advertising/publicity value. Qualitative: Goodwill, relationships, message content. Then, according to Harris and Goodell, "Get clarity upfront as to what metrics will be most useful. Educate [senior management] that some benefits will be intangible, including creating brand ambassadors, building relationships and word of mouth that cannot be tracked." Then expand on specific opportunities for showing proof of performance by identifying these options for calculating ROI: Equivalent ad value of editorial coverage: Establish a methodology for print, broadcast and online, and remember to consider pass-along values. Impressions based on circulation, unique visitors or viewership. Impressions for every dollar spent: Divide the cost of a campaign (including agency fees and out-of-pocket expenses) by the total number of impressions garnered. Google analytics, including measures of traffic to company and campaign Web sites. Business results, including products sold, leads generated, etc. Whether your communications team/department has the ear of the C-suite every day or just occasionally, these strategies will help solidify your role within your organization. Then, Lukaszewski says, "You'll know you've become a trusted strategic adviser when the boss tells your stories but takes credit for them." That's when you know you've made it. PRN CONTACTS: Mary Wong, mary.wong@officedepot.com; Jim Lukaszewski, jel@e911.com; Shana Harris, shana.harris@warschawski.com; Susan Goodell, susan.goodell@warschawski.com This topic will be expanded upon at the PR News Measurement Conference, which is being held on June 3, 2009, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For more information and to register, visit http://www.prnewsonline.com. Selling Social Media Strategies To Senior Management Getting the C-suite to acknowledge the value of PR is an age-old battle, but today there is an extra component to sell: social media, as Web 2.0 goes hand-in-hand with all stakeholder communications. To get senior leaders on board with your social media strategies, Shana Harris, SVP, Warschawski, and Susan Goodell, senior director, Warshawski, offer the following tips: Become an Expert: Educate yourself on social media before providing recommendations to the management team/client. Understand the pros and cons before entering the social media space. Identify if social media is a fit for your brand and an effective way to reach your audience. Plan Ahead: Get buy-in from senior leadership up front to ensure everyone is on board. Identify any possible hurdles and risks so they know what to expect. Create Web 2.0 guidelines, protocols and policies. Tie all social media campaigns to business goals and make it part of an integrated communications strategy.

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