The communication industry has a perception issue. Danny Brown disagrees with me. Sort of.
He thinks communication professionals have a perception issue; that there are bad eggs in our profession, just like every other industry. But that the entire industry isn’t the problem because, well, an industry, by definition, is either a collection of businesses or the building of an idea around something or someone.
I agree an industry isn’t a living, breathing person (as he puts it), but the industry does rank at the bottom of professions, with used car salesmen and lawyers. While we’re not lucky enough to have jokes told about us like the legal industry, it’s an issue, none-the-less.
The problem, you see, is that we don’t do our own PR. We are so busy doing PR for our employers or our clients that we forget about ourselves. That whole shoemaker’s children have no shoes phenomenon.
So, instead, those who don’t understand what we do create the perception of our brand. The most tangible thing we do is media relations because, when a story runs, you can hold it, see it, feel it, touch it. Because of that, we’re seen as flacks, spin doctors, snakeoil salesmen, and even liars. Anything to get a good story, right?
Last week, while in Baltimore, I was running late for dinner because I was commenting to Davina Brewer on a blog post by Jayme Soulati about pushing the edge of the envelope, which got me all fired up. (Valeria Maltoni and Adam Singer made fun of me, “Someone was wrong on the Internet and you are late so you could correct them?”as they high-fived one another for being so clever.)
You see, there are many conversations happening about the ROI of keeping the books, the ROI of engagement and sentiment, the ROI of taking out the trash. All of these things have to happen to keep a business running. They are the cost of doing business.
Typically, PR is seen as a cost of doing business. A cost that can be deleted from the P&L as soon as times get tough.
Let’s Make Ourselves Some Shoes
The time is ripe for us to begin to make change; for us to begin to change that perception. It’s time for us to shift the mindset that PR is an expense and help business leaders understand we are an investment.
With digital marketing and communication, we have the opportunity to measure our results. To show exactly how our efforts are translating to actual dollars and cents (if you don’t know how, Adam Boatsman wrote a phenomenal post yesterday on how to get started).
In order to do that, though, we must get out of our comfort boxes and learn some new skills: Some skills most marketers already have.
Do you understand how your company makes money? Do you understand how leads are generated and how they’re converted? Do you have a relationship with anyone in sales? In accounting? Are you reviewing your website and/or blog analytics? Are you comparing your analytics to the past? Do you have conversion goals, based on your communication efforts?
If you answered yes to all of these, congratulations! You’re likely already proving your worth.
But, if you answered no to any one of these, you have some work to do. In the next 60 days, you need to be able to answer yes to all of these questions.
Do Your Own PR
Once you’re there, you can begin to think about how to generate leads that can be converted to sales. For instance, create unique URLs that drive solely to the communication efforts. Or create a QR code for your packaging that drives customers and prospects to a web property (website, blog, Facebook), where they can buy product, get a mobile coupon, or read a recent blog post. Develop digital coupons with a code for each discipline: Communication, advertising, marketing, sales, etc. Have a call-to-action in your content, such as an eBook download or registration to a webinar.
Track these efforts in your analytics. Work with your friends in sales, marketing, and accounting to develop an executive dashboard. And report your results either to your executive team or to your client’s executive team. Do your own PR.
If we all begin to think like business owners, the perception of our industry will change. When the perception changes, we’ll be able to join the conversation as an investment; something the business can’t live without.
But it’s imperative we all think this way. That we all report this way. That we all learn these new skills. If we don’t, the perception will remain and those of us who do good work will continue to blame the perception issue on the bad eggs of our industry.