Earning Credibility with the C-Suite: Execute and analyze, then improve and perform beyond expectations

[tweetmeme source= “WallopOnDemand” only_single=false]When you invest in PR measurement and analytics you have an opportunity to analyze your PR programs, find areas that need improvement and make necessary changes. Collecting measurement data allows you to look for signs that will help determine which PR initiatives are working and which ones aren’t. Then, you can focus on what works and eliminate activities that don’t in order to maximize your PR results. By constantly pushing to improve your PR, you can deliver results that will impress your executive team.

 Throughout your campaigns you want to scan your measurement data and look for clues and insights that will help you answer questions like:

 • Is our PR campaign working?

• Are we receiving coverage in our target publications?

• How favorable is the coverage?

• How prominently is our brand/company being featured in the stories?

• How often are our key messages being included, and with what interpretation?

 While these are just a few sample questions, the insights you learn by answering these and other questions can (and should) be used to make informed decisions about PR activities and strategy. Don’t be afraid to course correct in the middle of your campaign if your measurement and analysis suggests a need for change. After all, it’s much better to evaluate your progress as you go, and make changes as needed, than it is to reach the end of your campaign and realize PR wasn’t effective. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to answer tough questions from disappointed executives about PR’s lackluster performance. In fact, it’s a good idea to always keep in mind that whether your PR results are good or bad, you’re going to be held accountable. Know that you’ll have to answer to executives, and let that motivate you to perform beyond expectations.

 As you analyze your PR results, spend some time looking at your competition. You can bet that executives will want to know if they’re beating competitors or falling behind. Ask yourself how your PR outputs/outcomes compare to those of your competitors – look at executive quotes, analyst quotes, customer stories, product coverage, or other criteria that is relevant to you. Try to determine the areas where your competitors are having the most success, and then incorporate that information into your PR strategy to ultimately outperform the competition. You can gain confidence from the C-suite by showing them proof that PR is helping the company make progress towards goals and meet or beat competitors.

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Earning Credibility with the C-Suite: Making sense of PR outputs and outcomes

When setting PR goals and evaluating progress you’ll find that your results fall into one of two categories: outputs Measuring business resultsor outcomes. In the past it was common for businesses and agencies to focus their measurement efforts on PR outputs. However, the PR community is now increasingly recognizing the importance of looking at outcomes. There have been several pushes this year to place more emphasis on PR/business outcomes. One example is the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles which states that measuring PR’s “effect on outcomes is preferred to measuring outputs.”

So what exactly is an outcome and why is it so important?

According to the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), public relations outcomes include:

“shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behavior related to purchase, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation, employee engagement, public policy, investment decisions, and other shifts in stakeholders regarding a company, NGO, government or entity, as well as the stakeholder’s own beliefs and behaviors.”

In a way, outputs and outcomes can be thought of like cause and effect. PR outputs, such as media briefings, coverage, product reviews, etc., are responsible for “causing” business outcomes – which include things like web traffic, sales leads, new customers, and so on.

Outcomes are valuable because they show how PR has helped to achieve business objectives. And, considering PR professionals are under constant pressure to prove PR’s impact on business results, measuring outcomes provides evidence of PR’s influence.

Clearly it is no longer acceptable to hand over a clip book and assume that it alone will prove a PR program’s success. Executives appreciate seeing results in terms of outcomes – in addition to outputs. Often times they value – and can process – a report that shows increased sales figures much more than they understand one that talks only about the number of media briefings PR helped to secure. To demonstrate PR’s value you need to connect the dots for the executive team.

So, should we give up entirely on measuring outputs? Absolutely not, and here’s why – when PR professionals can show PR results and business results increased in parallel, we can say we’ve contributed to business growth. Measuring both output and outcome data let’s you make that connection. PR outputs also help identify specific PR tasks that could be adjusted to optimize programs for maximum success.

Executives may not fully recognize progress defined only in terms of PR outputs, but PR pros cannot produce the maximum level of business outcomes without understanding PR outputs. So, what’s the takeaway? Measure outputs and outcomes, and then focus on improving and adjusting your PR program until you’re producing the desired business results.

Earning Credibility with the C-Suite: Gather baseline data and set measurable goals

As a savvy PR pro, you understand measurement helps create winning PR programs and it provides the type of concrete evidence of success that executives value. So, you’ve decided to incorporate measurement into all of your PR programs. (And, that makes you pretty smart.) But, where do you start?

You may be surprised to know that you actually need to begin measuring even before you craft your PR strategy. Here’s why – if you want to be able to measure how far you’ve come, then you need to know where you started. So, start out by collecting some initial baseline data. This means gathering information from the previous six to twelve months for your business and for the competitors. This will be your baseline standard that you will measure all future progress against. During this process you’ll be able to uncover clues about certain strengths that you may want to capitalize on, as well as opportunities where PR can help achieve more.  

What baseline information do you need to collect? That really depends on your business goals. Measurement needs to map to goals so you can determine if PR is on track to accomplish business objectives. There’s not a universal list of things every program should measure, because every campaign has different goals. You may want to measure total articles, share of voice, message penetration, number of times company executives are quoted compared to competitor executives, sales leads, web hits, net new customers, engagement or other data points. The important thing is that you are collecting the information that’s important to you, your clients and the executive team.

Since I brought it up, let’s stop for a minute and talk about goals. In my last blog post I talked about asking smart questions in order to learn about business goals and craft appropriate PR objectives. You also need to create measurable PR goals. Let me emphasize the keyword in that last sentence: measurable. Here’s the thing, it won’t pay to set abstract goals. Vague goals – like increase awareness, set the agenda, or garner widespread coverage – won’t cut it. This is one area where you really want to get it right. PR goals need to clearly define the specific things you want to accomplish, so that as you measure your progress you’ll clearly be able to see what goals you’ve met.

A few final thoughts on setting measurable goals:

1) To ensure PR strategies and tactics align with business goals you need to be laser focused, and you need to hold PR accountable by evaluating your progress against measurable goals.

2) Setting intangible, vague goals does nothing to help make a case for PR.

When you meet with the C-suite to deliver a report on PR’s progress, you need to have something tangible to present. Executives want to see numbers, metrics and graphs. They want to know what they are getting for their money and they want proof that PR is driving business results. If you’ve taken time to set measurable goals and track your progress, you’ll be prepared to deliver the numbers that are important to the executive team.

Earning Credibility with the C-Suite: Demonstrate your understanding of the business

When executives decide to invest money into PR they do so with the idea that PR will help their business achieve certain objectives. The C-suite values business results, and showing how PR maps to business objectives is critical if you want to earn credibility and prove PR’s value. To do this you first need a clear understanding of the company’s business goals. Focusing on the company’s goals will help you produce the results executives desire so that your campaign is deemed successful.

 Sometimes PR programs produce results that aren’t considered to be extremely high priorities for the business. This happens when PR objectives are not aligned with business priorities. In this scenario, PR pros may wonder why they’re not seeing love from the executive team for all of PR’s accomplishments. But, executives wonder why PR isn’t achieving the most important objectives. To avoid this type of situation you need to make sure that business objectives are clearly communicated from the very start, and that PR objectives map to business goals.

 It’s important for PR professionals to ask smart questions in order to identify goals and priorities. Here are some examples of smart questions to ask at the beginning of each campaign:

 • What are your primary objectives for the company?

• What do you hope to accomplish within the next 18 months?

• What are the most important initiatives the company is undertaking during the

next 18 months to achieve your revenue goals?

• Is there a particular product line that you’re focusing on to achieve revenue goals?

• What are your top three priorities moving forward?

• How do you see PR as being of value here?

• How can we help you achieve your goals?

Using the knowledge you’ve gained by asking these questions you can create targeted PR objectives. This is your chance to show executives you “get it” so be sure to give quality attention to the PR objectives. Appropriate and thoughtful PR objectives will demonstrate your understanding of the client’s business goals and assure the executive team that the PR program is based on their desired business outcomes. It will also ensure that your PR accomplishments will produce the business results that the C-suite most wants to see.

Earning Credibility with the C-Suite: For PR pros, credibility is never a given.

As a PR professional, do you ever feel like the C-suite expects you to “knock it out of the park” every time you step up to the plate? Even the best sluggers in baseball can’t do that. But for PR pros, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, or who you are, you’re judged by the results you deliver every time you’re at bat. There’s constant pressure from executives to deliver more results better and faster. If you can’t, well, then you’re traded for someone who can. In the PR world, it doesn’t matter how good you are at your craft, credibility is not a given with the executive suite. It’s something that has to continuously be earned.

So, how do you earn respect from the executive team? Well, doing great PR is a start. Let’s face it, creating a winning strategy, executing it well, and analyzing your results will help you earn points with execs. But, to really earn credibility you have to take it a step further and make sure that your executive team clearly understands the value that PR is bringing to the table. This is an area where a lot of PR pros struggle and it doesn’t help that many executives are skeptical about PR’s ability to impact business results.

To prove that you deserve to be in the game you need to show executives a connection between PR and business achievements. You want to give executives evidence of PR’s successes, and do it in a way that is meaningful to them. Prepare charts, graphs, and reports that illustrate the business goals that have been met, and then demonstrate how PR was responsible for those achievements. In theory this may sound simple, but perfectly successful results generating PR firms are fired all the time simply because they don’t communicate program results in a way that makes sense to the C-suite.

In our series of upcoming blog posts “Earning Credibility with the C-Suite” we’ll talk more about some of the specific ways in which PR professionals can prove the value of PR and gain credibility for their programs. For now, here are a few of our suggestions:

• Demonstrate your understanding of the business

• Gather baseline data and set measurable goals

• Measure PR outcomes and outputs

• Execute and then analyze

• Improve and perform beyond expectations

• Package PR results the right way

Watch for more on these topics in our upcoming posts. And remember, for PR pros credibility is never a given. That’s why it is so important to do everything possible to convince the C-suite of PR’s value.

Goodbye expensive PR measurement, hello Wallop!

Today is a big day for Wallop! OnDemand. I’m excited to announce that we’re officially launching Wallop!, our on-demand PR measurement and analytics solution. For those of you that are interested in all the details of the launch, here’s the press release.

To me this launch feels like it has been a long time coming. I don’t remember exactly when the idea for Wallop! was born, but I can tell you that I’ve always felt there needed to be a way for more people to measure their communications programs. Measurement is such an integral part of executing successful PR, and it is vital to helping the PR community demonstrate the business value of public relations.

But, of course, there has always been one major barrier that’s kept people from implementing measurement – price. PR measurement has traditionally been so expensive that it just wasn’t accessible to most businesses and agencies. That’s one of the main reasons why we created Wallop! We wanted to make PR measurement available to everyone.

I have to think that every PR professional wants to measure their programs, and that given the chance to improve PR results by using an affordable measurement solution, they’d jump at the opportunity. After all, there are tremendous benefits associated with measurement. Measurement helps shape PR strategy. It allows you to recognize areas of strength or weakness, and it identifies opportunities. Without measurement it’s tough to know what’s working in order to make improvements and adjustments. Measurement lets you demonstrate your program’s performance to executives, and it helps highlight the value of PR.

As I said before, today is a big day for all of us at Wallop! OnDemand. Here’s what I truly hope for as we launch Wallop!:

–          That Wallop! makes it possible for more people to begin measuring PR results

–          That Wallop! provides measurement newbies and vets insights that lead to program improvements and even better PR

–          That through measurement, Wallop! strengthens PR’s reputation as a driving force behind business

For anyone out there that a) has never tried implementing measurement before, b) wants to measure PR but thinks they can’t afford to, or c) isn’t happy with their current way of measuring communications, I invite you to join us on our measurement revolution. At the very least, swing by our website (www.wallopondemand.com) and take a look at Wallop!, then let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

We Will. We Will. Rock You . . .

Now that you have that famous song in your mind, I’d like to say…

Thank you for checking out the Measurement Minute blog, which is designed to foster discussions that enable agency and corporate PR professionals to collectively drive measurement practices forward by sharing ideas, learning from peers, and contributing to the measurement dialogue. 

One thing you’ll find here – that you won’t find elsewhere (at least I haven’t seen it) – is practical ideas for APPLYING measurement to PR programs.  Most of the current discussion on measurement is focused on what to measure.  Here, we’ll be talking about what to measure.  But, more importantly, we’ll be talking about how to USE measurement to drive efficiencies into PR programs, increase our credibility with C-suite executives, improve PR programs and drive greater results, and better package the results of our PR programs so we can win more clients, grow budgets and go farther in our careers.

I come from the PR trenches and anyone who knows me, personally, knows I’m laser focused on getting results.   I understand the pressure PR professionals are under to demonstrate how PR results drive business results.  And, I know all too well that when executives ask about the performance of the PR program, they want clear-cut answers and that means success metrics, numbers, graphs, charts and ROI.  They want more, faster and better than the quarter before.  

Prior to founding Wallop! OnDemand, I spent more than 15 years helping countless consumer, B2B and clean technology entrepreneurs bring companies, business models and products to market.  I founded Jones PR (www.jonespr.net), a PR agency best known for getting high-profile media coverage, and that has made a name for itself in new media with award-winning social media and viral marketing campaigns.  I’ve also spent several years working with two of the world’s largest PR firms — Porter Novelli and Weber Shandwick – and have worked with a number of boutique PR agencies in Silicon Valley. 

I’m a fan of PR.  It’s my passion.  And, I believe that until now, PR measurement has simply been too expensive, with annual subscriptions in the five figures. That’s why my partner and I have spent the last five years working to bring an affordable and sophisticated PR measurement solution to market.  I believe measurement should be affordable for every PR program, regardless of budget.

Why? Because how can we do our jobs if we’re not measuring and analyzing our success?  Measurement makes us better PR professionals. 

My hope is that this blog will become a resource for sharing information and best practices about PR measurement.   Here are a couple of free resources to get the conversation started….

  • A free OnDemand PR measurement webinar – How to Demonstrate the Business Value of PR and Gain Credibility with the C-Suite: http://bit.ly/measurementwebinar
  • A free social report by the same name – How to Demonstrate the Business Value of PR and Gain Credibility with the C-Suite: http://bit.ly/socialreports

 P.S. We’re launching on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010. . . We are excited!

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