“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” With this statement, it’s obvious Microsoft founder Bill Gates believed in the value of PR.
The same goes for Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, who sees the strategic value of PR. “Publicity is absolutely critical,” the English billionaire has said. “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad.”
These leaders, along with many others, have experienced the positive lift in brand awareness and sales growth PR can deliver, especially when you have a strong team of communicators and a great story to tell. In today’s data-driven world, it’s essential to measure and report your PR results to reinforce that value. And successful measurement starts with tying key performance indicators (KPIs) to your business objectives.
Step One: Understand Business Objectives
It is essential to tie PR to business objectives for several reasons. These include the importance of aligning to the goals of your company leaders and showcasing the value behind the metrics. Ultimately, reporting PR results with a focus on business results increases your opportunity to get even more budget for your next activity.
As the company or organization you work with sets its strategic objectives, it is important that you understand them. After all, the better your comprehension of the overall strategy and end goals, the more you can align your PR objectives with that strategy and contribute to the achievement of the business goals.
Visit With Strategists
If a leader from your team—such as the chief marketing officer or chief communications officer—has a seat at the table as strategy is debated and finalized, you are in an ideal position to arm him or her with the background on what PR can deliver. This includes, but is not limited to, driving brand awareness through editorial placements and winning share of voice with targeted coverage. This leader can influence the strategy, tying PR to the critical tactics that will help achieve the business objectives.
Whether you have a seat at the table or not, I recommend you invite a member of your strategy team to walk your communications team through the latest company strategy, including the background on each objective and any interesting points your executive team wrestled with when finalizing the strategy.
These insights can be very valuable as you build and drive to achieve your PR objectives, so be sure to invite your agency partners to join in as well.
Writing Objectives Carefully
As you draft your PR objectives, think about how they can be written to reflect what your business wants to achieve. For example, rather than “increasing readership through article placement,” position one of your objectives as “gaining customer mindshare through thought leadership.”
This language will appeal to business leaders in the company, as they are focused on putting customers first and building a leadership position in their industry.
Align on Target Audiences
Speaking of customers, don’t forget to understand and align on the target audiences for your company or organization. This may include partners, investors, donors, media, analysts, etc.
By identifying your key target audiences and what publications they read on a regular basis, you can establish your target publication list.
The next step is to build relationships with reporters and editors at the target publications. A good way to forge these relationships is to do your research—understand the publication’s contributed content guidelines and learn the beats of your targeted journalists so you can increase coverage of your company and win more share of voice than your competitors.
Placing an Article is the First Step
Don’t forget that having the readers of your target publications see your editorial placements is just the first step. You can maximize the value of these articles by sharing links to them with your sales team so they can send them along to customers.
Imagine: One of your account managers leaves a meeting with a prospective customer to whom he or she has introduced a recently launched product. As a follow-up, the account manager can email the prospect a link to an article placed in one of your target publications that touts the benefits of this product. This may just help secure the sale!
Marketing teams always are looking for current content—such as positive coverage or published case studies—to highlight in email campaigns, for example. You should make it standard practice to share your key placements on a regular basis with your marketing colleagues.
Report Results With a Business Mindset
In reporting your results, keep this same business mindset. For example, we know sales results are reported in comparison to goals annually and year-over-year. This can be done for PR metrics too.
For example, say your earnings are reported on a quarterly basis. Ensure you develop a PowerPoint slide that summarizes PR objectives and actual results, including the percent of increase or decrease vs. the goal for this year and for the same quarter during the previous year.
Some of your metrics may include share of voice as well as the number of media impressions and placements.
Many PR teams also showcase how often their editorial content is being shared on social, an additional data point that can highlight PR’s influence and return on investment (ROI).
Describe What’s Behind the Data
Also think about adding the “So what?” behind the data. This can include brief bullets on key learnings, innovative tactics that achieved significant success or perhaps how you leveraged a byline in more than one country to drive even more ROI.
Overall, it is important to report your results regularly to your executive team and even your board of director. Keep your report concise and data-based, so that you can highlight the business benefits PR delivers.
By aligning with business objectives, sharing your content and reporting results, you will gain advocates for the PR program at all levels of the company who will be willing to invest additional budget so you can increase activities and thus the value of PR for everyone.
As one of the world’s most successful investors, Warren Buffett, has stated, “It takes about 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Start doing things differently now by ensuring your PR program is aligned to your business objectives.
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