three tools to show pr value By Aly Saxe

Can you show clear PR value from your work?

It’s a question every communications professional should ask themselves and be able to answer in a way that will both reinforce your own campaign strategy and the confidence of the most savvy client, chief marketing officer (CMO), or executive.

When the CMO or some other skeptical business leader wants to know exactly how you’re contributing to the company’s bottom line—from supporting their marketing efforts to elevating leadership visibility—you must be able to show PR value and clear return-on-investment in a way that will resonate.

Show PR Value with These Tools

If you’re not ready for this kind of request, it can feel intimidating. Suddenly the entire account is on the line. If they decide you’re not adding PR value, they might swing the ax.

There’s no way around it—you’ll need to counter with concrete, irrefutable evidence of your worth.

To make a case for the PR value you provide (and your budget) to even the most reluctant executives, you’ll need three tools:

  • A crystal clear strategy; 
  • Technology; and 
  • Preparation.

When I ran an agency, these are the three tools I had ready whenever I had to go head-to-head with a request like this. They allowed me to come out swinging every time showing clear and validated PR value. 

Crystal Clear Strategy

If there’s one underlying question that should drive all of your PR efforts, it’s this: What is the goal?

Remember, not all clients share the same end game so the objectives, and metrics you use to measure them will all be individual. 

Some clients want you to reshape their brand story.

Some want content that drives leads.

Some want notoriety.

But you won’t know unless you ask and that can get more complicated than a simple question and answer.


Because sometimes what a client need is different from what they think they want.

Instead, do some strategy sessions at the onset that connect your PR work to the client’s objectives, whether that’s enriched lead flow, foot traffic, or landing in a specific publication.

That includes rock tight documentation of the end game so you and your client agree on the definition of success.

You’ll need this later so hang onto it.

Some PR practitioners are hesitant to probe into the client’s end game, because they’re afraid the client might decide there’s not a place for PR in achieving it. But that’s only setting the stage for an unproductive relationship.

The smarter tactic is the braver one: Drill down into the client’s precise goals and see how you can feed into them. If there’s no actual role for you and your PR expertise within that scope, it’s better to acknowledge it, walk away and spend your energy on a client who really does need you.

So yes, the goals are the baseline of the entire relationship. You can’t tell if the account is on target or off course unless you’ve identified the destination and achieved agreement with the client.

Use Technology for Effective Measurement

Here’s the factor that separates PR flacks from PR experts: Measurement.

There’s a reason some agencies and teams skip metrics and reporting all together. Because there aren’t universal standards like marketing cost per lead, they believe PR value and effectiveness isn’t quantifiable so they avoid it all together.

I can’t emphasize enough how dead wrong that belief is.

Not only are there predictable trends in PR strategy that can help you set benchmarks, there is also a reason behind every success and failure. And with the great technology available to PR pros today, there’s just no excuse for not measuring your team’s performance.

The right tools deliver data that tell you which efforts are paying off, which aren’t, and where you’re in danger of missing your goals. You’ll know how effectively you’re maximizing your budget and resources, and where specific team members are strong and where they need improvement.

You’ll also be able to provide proof of not just PR value but your efficiency, as well. PR teams that are serious about tackling measurement are investing in technology to the tune of $2B a year right and that’s going up. There’s a reason for that, so sit on the sidelines at your own risk.

That said, be sure to use technology that can adapt to your and your clients’ needs. Every client has different metrics for success.

If a client is only interested in foot traffic, don’t waste monitoring media hits or plugging into their Google Analytics.

If the goal is reshaping the brand reputation, then you’re looking at tonality of media coverage and award wins for credibility, not necessarily leads.

Trying to fit all reports into the same box is only going to provide the client with a blurred portrait of your actual focus and dilute their vision of the PR value you provide.

Always Be Prepared

When an executive calls you on the carpet to prove PR value, you won’t always have time to research and compile a lengthy dossier of all your wins. You need to be ready to prove your worth with minimal notice. Luckily, if you’ve got the upfront agreement on what the goal is, and you’re using good technology, this shouldn’t be too difficult. The data to document goals, actions , results and overall PR value should be on hand at all times.

This is especially critical when the results don’t align with the effort expended.

Let’s say you put together an event for a target demographic and spent time on collateral, pitching, and some owned media– but unfortunately the results (whatever they are) fell short of your expectations. Rather than simply telling the client the effort failed, you’ll be able to illustrate your diligence and offer the reason the goal wasn’t met. The client gets to see that you’re keeping measurement at the forefront, you’re monitoring for specific, agreed-upon results, and you’re identifying when/why something goes sideways. Clients love that.

The reverse is true as well, of course. Because your strategies have been aligned with predefined goals, you’ll be able to point to why your work is relevant to the company’s success every single time. And most importantly your are presenting facts over hyperbole to show true PR value.

To stay prepared, of course, you’ll want to check your data frequently. Don’t wait until it’s time to renew the relationship; monitor performance on a regular basis so you can spot both danger zones and opportunities, and course-correct as necessary.

In the end, the point of PR is to help the client grow their business in some way.

By fortifying yourself through strategy, preparation, and the right tools, you’ll be able to prove you’re the right team for their needs—in both current wins and future opportunities.

photo credit: Creative Commons

Aly Saxe

Aly Saxe is the founder and CEO of Iris, software for agencies and in-house PR teams. She founded Ubiquity Public Relations, an agency representing high-growth B2B tech startups, in 2007.

View all posts by Aly Saxe