Whether in-house or at an agency, a PR leader inevitably will face a fundamental question from the C-suite and members of the Board of Directors: “I see coverage and activity, but what’s the real value?”
It’s a question that never goes away. It underpins every new business presentation and is front and center throughout renewal discussions for agencies. All of us are under pressure when the economy tightens, but internal PR pros feel the squeeze the most.
Inevitably, there is a question about the ROI of media results. To answer this question with confidence and gain the trust of marketing, PR has to provide deeper data that illustrates its value to the business on a real-time basis.
The Impact of PR
For those of us in the industry, PR’s impact on brand awareness—and the value of brand awareness on a business—seems self-evident. Good PR plays a significant role in driving traffic to a company’s website and social channels, supporting lead-generation efforts by engaging new prospects that are critical to every enterprise.
Some types of quality press coverage, such as product and use case stories, also provide sales teams with credible, third-party assets that help move prospects from the middle of the funnel toward the finish line. In addition, media coverage, a major speaking opportunity or a coveted award goes a long way toward bringing a promising company to the attention of investors and major companies looking to make an acquisition.
The benefits of public relations and brand awareness are significant. But these benefits often aren’t readily discernible to marketing leaders—and especially to the CEOs and boards to whom they answer. These teams need a clearer line of sight between PR efforts and business KPIs.
Demonstrating Value Through Data
In an era of rich, abundant data, most public relations teams still rely on primitive reporting methods like coverage reports to quantify their results.
This data ultimately equates to rudimentary monitoring information rather than compelling insights demonstrating PR’s impact on a business. These metrics typically include a list of media coverage, analyst report mentions and content delivered per month. Worse yet, reports often look like a list of activities that are tactical, and feel as though they are intended to justify the cost.
This model is woefully inadequate. It relies on the marketing team to parse what was valuable by comparing it with other tools—demand gen platforms, social media analytics, web traffic data, etc. The growing marketing software stack may include dozens of software applications, making this manual process cumbersome and error-prone. When teams have specific questions about performance, it might take days or weeks to get answers. By that time, the moment for action may be gone.
Marketing should not have to work so hard to try and quantify the impact of PR. For public relations to secure its rightful place at the decision-making table, communicators must provide a comprehensive metric system that, on one screen, effortlessly maps out their work’s effect on business outcomes.
Most PR teams aren’t quite aware of how important rich data is to demonstrating their value to marketing. Some have begun to look at tools that provide more insights, but most of these solutions are not yet able to measure things like the full impact of content efficacy.
PR teams should offer insights that includes things like:
- Data demonstrating the real-time progress of communications and marketing initiatives.
- A detailed comparison of results alongside the corresponding web analytics, including the ability to drill down into results that created traffic spikes or more time on a specific pages or insights into the most productive page pathways.
- Data evaluating the impact of campaigns across multiple channels (i.e. web, email / demand gen, adds, social).
- A comparison of key metrics against competitors.
These insights and transparency create more confidence in public relations results and how they support the business. With greater trust, marketers will spend less time trying to audit the effectiveness of PR and more time collaborating with PR teams to achieve strategic objectives.
Proving PR’s Worth is More Important Than Ever
Today, in almost every industry, companies are tightening their budgets. Marketing and communication programs are often the first to get cut. Moreover, firms are relying increasingly on data and advanced analytics to gauge the performance of all their business units and shape critical business decisions. Public relations is just as important as any other marketing program and most corporate departments, but PR executives must start offering the metrics and insights to prove it.
Susan Thomas, CEO and Founder of 10Fold Communications.