There is one question you must be able to answer as a Comms Pro: ‘how do you measure your worth’!
For some jobs, it’s relatively easy to see whether they are being done well, or not. If you are a journalist say, your editor knows you’ve been working if you’ve filed your copy for the day. You’re publisher knows whether it’s good copy if people are reading it (buying your paper, or clicking on your links). For PR folk, it’s a little harder to say whether you’ve been working and if that work has in fact been adding value back to your employer/client. One could argue, and some incorrectly do, that the fact that Mr Journalist filed good copy was the result of some excellent PR. The problem with this is… you can’t prove it. Good PR is a little like the wind, you know it’s there, but you can’t see it. The proof is in the yacht silently cruising from one side of the bay to the other. Transparency is an inherent issue with the profession of Public Relations. Its stealthy cloak, the very thing that makes PR valuable, is also the thing that leaves it open to criticism. Like my earlier Blog Post: Planning for the best – to mitigate the worst, it’s hard to quickly recall first-class Crisis Comms, because you’re not supposed to.
The other aspect to this conundrum is the fact that even if your PR skills have been what has brought about that article, and you can prove it, is that delivering real value? Does that article positively impact your business/client? Does it tie back to their strategic objectives? Do you even know what they are? Or… is just getting their name out there seen as a success; job done!? Too often it is for too many PR pros. It’s not always their fault mind you. Sometimes, it is a matter of the behaviour that is being driven ie. what has been asked of them. But the flip side of the coin is… it’s ok to say no. And you should (where exerting energy on an activity won’t result in a positive contribution to the organisation’s strategy). No-one is better placed than you to say whether this is the case. You might know you can get a hit, but if it is a puff piece in a publication that doesn’t even reach the audience you know the organisation needs to reach, you as the expert are obliged to call this out.
It’s a simple principle – don’t be a headline chaser! Be a communications partner. Do you ever ask yourself, is a media release or exclusive pitch the best option, or could this be better communicated via a DM or on the website. The great divide between marketing and PR bemuses me. It doesn’t make sense to have a siloed view of communications. The message and the audience are paramount.
The Arthur W. Page Society recently released a report called: Building Belief – A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy. The report outlines a framework for how communication leaders activate their companies’ corporate character. This is the closest thing to a recipe for real value that I’ve seen!
How do I define real value? Well, it needs to be quantifiable. Soft benefits, even though they’re hard to define, are still benefits:
Referral customer rates: Brand attachment happens when people are proud to associate with a particular organisation. Brand evangelism is the next step, where your customers become your sales people. As a PR person, this is a part of your job. If you don’t make it your mission to create an environment to harness this enthusiasm, you are missing the point. One example of how you can do this is by asking spokespeople within your company/client to write a blog. A good blog helps to generate referral traffic when the link is reposted. Attach a call to action tag to this and you can clear as day see the value that PR is generating.
Staff satisfaction scores: The Society for Human Resource Management says feeling safe in the work environment is one of the major contributors to employee satisfaction. Safety in this context is intrinsically intertwined with job security. Good PR builds this sense of confidence within your workforce and because they feel like they are working for a winner, engagement scores lift, and so does your productivity.
Attendance at events: A tactile way you can judge sentiment and feeling towards your organisation/client, is how many people turn up to your events. The PR aspect of this is not just getting word out that the event is on. This is the last piece of the puzzle. The hard work, the real value, is creating a connection with the brand in the months leading up to it. Depending on the weather, most companies factor in around a 50 per cent drop out rate for events, but if you are doing better, you can bet it’s because your PR engine is working.
Having journos call for a chat: This has to be the strongest point yet. It means you have elevated your position and the position of your executives to thought leaders. This takes a lot of work (so much so, I’ll address it in a separate Blog Post), but it is the ultimate tip of the cap to say, we buy into what you are about. We are interested in not just want you do, but how you see the market playing out. It doesn’t directly result in a headline, but it’s just as powerful. Ask yourself, isn’t this an equally important measure you should be taking note of…