Of course, that’s not a new conversation for those of us here; we talk about it a lot. We talk about how measurement of our efforts to real business goals will get us the seat at the leadership table. We also talk about how our jobs are quickly becoming that of a hybrid PR professional.
But he had a couple of insights I thought were really interesting.
He said the reasons the industry gets no respect are because it’s not trackable, PR pros have a terrible reputation problem with journalists, you can’t scale it, and because there is no use putting lipstick on a pig.
Sound about right, based on your experience?
Media Impressions and AVEs?
In Canada, there is an industry-wide initiative to be rid of media impressions and advertising equivalencies. It’s been so successful, clients no longer ask PR professionals to submit “results” based on those two things.
But in the U.S.? Those things are still the way the industry measures its efforts. In fact, when we judge award entries for the professional organizations, we find the results section to be lacking real business results and focused, instead, on Facebook fans, number of media interviews, and media impressions.
It hurts my analytical brain. It hurts my communications heart.
PR pros win big awards for measuring their efforts that way so why should it change?
It turns out, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Either we can win the big awards, not have a seat at the table, and keep things status quo or we can shake things up and learn how to take advantage of the web to track against real things that sustain a business. Things such as increased revenues, shortened sales cycles, and improved margins.
Where is the Opportunity?
But, here’s the thing: I’m not so numbers driven I don’t recognize the need for the more, shall we say, light metrics. It is very difficult to measure brand awareness and the effectiveness of traditional PR.
Because of that, we have to find ways to measure our efforts in ways that are meaningful to the executives paying us.
I’ve broken down the types of things you can measure by light (brand awareness) and data-driven (business objectives). This is long. My apology…hopefully you can just cherry pick what makes most sense for your planning.
- Media relations: From my perspective, media relations also includes blogger and influencer relations. Because of the web, we no longer have to count on circulation multiplied by two and a half if it’s a consumer publication and five if it’s a trade outlet. Now you can track how many times an article, blog post, or piece of content was shared. You can figure out how many people saw it, shared it, and read it. Get to know Google analytics (really, it’s non-negotiable) and use Squeeze to track your traffic, views, and social shares. Report to your executives the value of each campaign.
- Customer relations: I won’t call this customer service because I don’t want those professionals to think we’re encroaching on their territory. Rather, we have a huge opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with our customers via the web. Social media provides the opportunity to connect, engage, and chat. In this case, fans, friends, connections, followers, and viewers make sense to track…when combined with the data-driven metrics.
- Scaleability: One of the things the Muck Rack CEO mentioned as a problem for the industry is PR can’t scale. That was true in the olden days. Today though? PR pros are being tasked with Promoted Posts, Promoted Tweets, and Amplify. In the past, because these things would be considered paid media, they would have lived under the advertising roof. But I’m willing to bet, like us, more and more of you are spending time with these tools. Facebook, Twitter, and Outbrain all give you analytics to support your buys.
- Increased revenue: If you don’t work for a public company, having access to the revenue goals may prove a little difficult. But, if your organization is run like mine, the revenue goals are very visible. Figure out how you can affect growth. If you have ecommerce, your campaigns will drive to landing pages where people can buy. If you don’t sell online, your content, email, social media, media relations, and other efforts will be measured through the leads you generate, how you nurture them, and how you help sales convert them.
We have one client who has given us access to their CRM so we know exactly where each leads comes from and whether or not they convert. Get access to the things you need to track your efforts and pay attention to how much money you’re driving for the business.
- Shortened sales cycle: If you’re in a consumer business, this is less important to you. But in a B2B organization, a sales cycle could be anywhere from two days to two years. Work with your sales team to figure out how long the average sale takes and set a goal to beat it. Let’s say it takes 10 months. Set your goal to nine months.
The best way to shorten a sales cycle? Stay top-of-mind. The best way to stay top-of-mind? Really valuable and interesting content that is shared in the places your prospects hang out (email, social, stadiums, subways, websites, etc.). The better your content, the more likely your prospects are to read it. The more likely they are to read it (or view it or listen to it), the more likely they are to buy from you. PR pros have ultimate control of this.
- Improved margins: Some of you may have heard me tell this story. We had a client a few years ago who incentivized us based on how much we helped his margins increased. Just as we were about to get our bonus for an improving their margins by two percent. He decided to buy a Ferrari, which killed the margins and we got no bonus.
If you don’t work for a public organization, I recommend staying away from this one. If you do, however, the easiest way to determine your affect on margins is to track how much revenue you generated, subtract your budget, your salary, and your benefits (if you work for a PR firm, subtract your budget), and the number you end up with is the real revenue you’ll use for reporting. Then you’ll have your finance team help you figure out the margins from there. If you increased revenue by more than what you spent, you can pretty much guarantee you improved margins, too.
- Big data: For those of you in the industry as long as me, you’ll remember having to sit through focus groups night after night, watching people on the other side of one-sided glass talk about your products or services. I was always happy when the advertising team said we didn’t need to attend. The beauty is that we no longer have to give up our weeknights (and eat pizza four nights in a row) to get information about what our customers think. If you have strong command of all of the data at your fingertips, you will be able to influence high level decisions on product, market positioning, and more. If you don’t know how to sift through the data, look at taking some online courses through Coursera or Big Data University.
Now it’s your turn. What else can the PR industry do to gain the respect it deserves?