Are PR pros respected and valued enough within high-tech corporations? I've visited websites and read bios of leadership teams at dozens of high-tech companies. Those pages feature photos of the usual suspects: CEOs, CFOs and chief technology officers. Then you see a photo of someone who holds the title of chief marketing officer (CMO). But I haven’t seen many VPs of PR or media relations or chief communication officers (CCO) in these pictures.
The conclusion seems apparent: Companies believe CMOs are more deserving than CCOs. Why? Because CCOs don’t deliver as much value as CMOs. Maybe this is fine. I don't think so. So, what should be done?
One way to add value is to contribute insight into how PR influences sales generation and brand enhancement. The closer PR execs tie what they do with revenue enhancement, the better chance they have of gaining more respect and being more valued. CEOs perceive CMOs have more strategic insight and business growth skill than PR pros and are therefore viewed as more valuable. Owing to this, CMOs often are the top communication pros in the company. PR reports to them.
PR pros, even at the vice president levels, are not calling the major shots when it comes to corporate communications. CMOs own that role.
Learn how to tie earned media to sales
Marketing and PR skills are related, but not exactly the same. A big responsibility of the CMO is helping drive sales.
By contrast, PR is responsible for internal and external communication. External communication often means generating press and developing relationships with reporters and editors. The goal, of course, is landing positive coverage.
An issue is that many PR pros don't know how to tie earned media with generating sales. They need to learn. Why? Earned media is critically important.
For example, Edelman’s June Brand Trust In 2020 special report showed 44 percent of respondents said earned media helps them trust a brand; 51 percent said it is a major factor in convincing them to distrust a brand. Overall, earned media was the most important third-party element in trusting brands and the most important factor in convincing consumers to distrust a brand.
In addition, a Bospar study earlier this month showed nearly 90 percent of Americans (88 percent) said that seeing placed stories would drive them to visit a company’s site. An overwhelming majority (92 percent) said seeing earned stories would even drive them to purchase a product. One in five said they would make a purchase on the second or third time they saw a company in the news. By the time a company has appeared 10 times in the news 86 percent said they would make a purchase.
PR pros need to learn content marketing
PR pros know how to write short messages, social media and press releases. They need to understand content marketing strategies, too. Here we mean longer works, such as blogs, white papers and case studies. In addition, they need to know how to conduct competitive content analysis, and generate sales leads based on content.
Simply put, a PR pro who knows how to write a news release but doesn’t understand how to write a blog is less valuable than those skilled at both.
Develop relationships with top execs
PR execs need to set up more one-on-one meetings with top corporate leaders. During those meetings they should share strategic ideas for generating sales leads and creating differentiation for the company’s products and services. They need to show they can strategize corporate growth as well as PR. If this happens, it’s more likely the CEO would want that PR pro at the next meeting when top-level strategies are discussed. And the CEO would be more inclined to make sure the PR exec has a picture on the website with other corporate leaders.
This is all about showing PR pros delivering value–but not by saying it. Rather, by proving it. Do the research, prepare for discussions and understand how marketing and PR can be leveraged for a powerful and tightly integrated double play.
It will go a long way towards getting PR execs on the front page of corporate website with all the other top leaders. But even more important, PR execs will have a bigger role in crafting corporate strategies.
Charles Hartley is president of Carolina Content & Media Relations