How CEOs Can Be Better Partners to Their PR Team (and Why It Matters)

CEOs need to meet with PR teams in order to understand PR's impact on the organization

Reputation influences revenue. From celebrity stumbles to social media scandals, we’ve seen the story play out on the balance sheet time and again, especially over the last few years.

I’ve interviewed dozens of CEOs including Marc Cuban, Reid Hoffman and Jessica Lessin for my podcast on entrepreneurship, "Venture Voice." It’s clear many executives know how important earned media, including PR, is to trust and credibility, but unlike some of my interviewees, not all fully grasp its impact on the bottom line.

PR is not marketing, and marketing is not PR.

The value of marketing is well understood by most CEOs. After all, metrics like leads, cost per acquisition, customer churn and sales are fairly easy to trace back to marketing activities.

With earned media, metrics like impressions, share-of-voice, key message pull-through and sentiment are a little less tangible, but they play a key role in measuring campaign effectiveness and understanding brand reputation. PR activities help bolster other parts of marketing, such as paid advertising, so it really does directly impact the bottom line.

According to Muck Rack’s 2023 State of PR survey, most PR pros feel like leadership understands what they do; however, one in five says their company leadership understands their work “somewhat well” and another 10% said they feel leadership understands their work “poorly or very poorly.” Plus, 40% of PR professionals say justifying/showcasing PR team value to stakeholders is a top concern.

If you’re not investing in PR you’re leaving money on the table.

Most companies wouldn’t hire a PR person to do their marketing, yet oftentimes marketers are the top PR person inside an organization. The skills and experience for both roles are different and equally as important, and your PR and marketing teams should work very closely to strategize for the best possible outcomes.

Our survey found that only 28% of PR pros report that a PR leader controls their budget and another 27% say their PR budget is controlled by a marketing leader. If budget permits, CEOs should invest in the PR function and structure their staff under a PR leader, whether it be a CCO or another senior role, with control of their own strategy and budget.

Show interest always.

When business is going well, it’s easy to ride the good reputation wave and not give it much thought—until a crisis arises. CEOs must bring their PR team to the conversation early and often so they can identify/prepare for risks and build thoughtful communications plans for important launches, both internally and externally.

CEOs should have a direct line to—and regular updates with—their communications lead so those experts can understand what issues matter most to the c-suite and provide counsel on any potential threats. Plus, CEOs should insist that earned media/PR reporting is part of regular marketing updates. The good news here is that 70% of PR pros told us that they give regular updates on their PR activities to their executives.

And don’t discount the importance of engaging with journalists directly. It’s the CEO’s job to represent the company in the media, so make time to build relationships with key journalists and understand the value of positive press. While Steve Jobs is known for obsessing over product, even he made time for numerous hours-long conversations with the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and relied heavily on the press to help tell the story of the future of Apple and introduce new products to the world.

Finally, a simple (and free) thing CEOs can do to show appreciation for their PR team internally is to ensure they are mentioned on congratulatory internal notes. Thanking marketing for their efforts on a launch isn’t enough; thank your PR team by name to show them that the executive team understands their unique contribution to the company’s success.

Gregory Galant is cofounder and CEO at Muck Rack