There's a lot of change happening in the PR industry. Those changes are forcing agencies and brand-side marcom teams to adapt or slowly lose their place in the marketing stack.
That evolution is causing disruption.
Though PR has largely been thought of as a media relations engine, today's successful PR pro must adapt to a wide range of new responsibilities. More often, PR is taking over all owned content, social media, and data analysis on PR outcomes. And in many cases, PR is expected to do all that with the same resources and budget.
Therein lies the problem. PR agencies rightfully want a bigger piece of the budget for all that extra responsibility. But CMOs are hesitant to spend any more money on a field they feel lacks proper measurement. PR teams expect budget growth to slowly over the next five years, according to the 2016 Global Communications Report, produced by the Holmes Report. That is because of lack of PR measurement that ties back to business impact.
All that change means PR organizations need to change the way they build their teams, and more importantly, how they structure their measurement models. And making changes requires investments in new PR measurement tools and performance skills.
Here are some things that can help you prove your PR services are worth more than what is currently invested.
Intelligent measurement is built on a foundation that often goes ignored: benchmarks.
When defining a winning media relations program or an impressive social media campaign, many PR teams rely on assumptions, guesswork, or intuition. Yet none of those standards can really tell how well you're performing.
Benchmarks, on the other hand, use relevant comparisons and factual data to put your results in context. They are the only valid reference points that can accurately show you (and your budget decision-maker) where you stack up in terms of performance.
Benchmarks will also help you set expectations and goals. The truth is that you can never really know how you're doing until you use benchmarks as your starting point. But once you start benchmarking, you'll avoid missteps and score major wins, and be in a much stronger position to negotiate budget.
Industry benchmarks are a great place to start, but developing your own benchmarks to measure long-term performance is key to optimizing results.
Building and managing a constantly flowing river of content is on most PR teams' list of responsibilities. (If it's not, it's a fair bet that many internal PR teams and agencies alike will be asked by their brand leaders to jump in.) Establishing a pipeline of owned media allows the brand to establish thought leadership and expand market reach.
Successful assets align with your brand message, are consistent across all platforms, and have active and current information. As long as your team has done that right, measuring your content engagement levels can be a helpful way to understand how your market perceives your brand. It's also a top-of-the-funnel metric that drives leads all the way through the funnel.
Focus on certain factors, such as:
- Number of social shares, mentions, and comments
- Content placement's domain rank and site traffic
- Referral traffic from content sources
- Span of diversity in assets (e.g., blogs, case studies, ebooks, etc.)
Earned Media Efficiency
No matter how many strategies you're holding PR accountable to, PR will still likely spend most of their time on media relations.
But if you're only focused on the number of media wins your PR team earns, you miss a huge part of the story. To build a full picture of how your media relation efforts are affecting the brand, you should be able to answer these questions with numbers—not words.
- How likely is a specific influencer to write about your brand when you pitch him or her a story?
- What is the potential reach of each earned media placement?
- How much effort did it take to get the earned media placements that drove the biggest business impact?
PR professionals can't ignore the fact that the industry is evolving. It is time to focus on measurement models that show a real return on investment, so they can compete with the rest of the marketing stack. Likewise, brand leaders need to be ready to make the investment into updating PR tools and skills if they expect their PR team to keep up with the demands of the industry.
By ensuring tech is up to date and employees are tracking efforts and results, a PR team can accurately prove their success, explain failures, and defend more spending with confidence.