Learn how to grow your PR budget

If you’ve been reading along on the Measurement Minute blog, you know that the last few posts have been focused on PR budgets – more specifically, on how to grow them. I wanted to share with you that next week (on Wednesday, March 30th) I will be hosting a webinar on this topic on the Measurement Minute webcast channel. The program, titled Using Measurement to Grow PR Budgets, is free and it will provide a closer look at some of the points introduced in recent posts, including:

  • Why you should maximize your existing PR budget prior to asking for additional funding
  • How exhibiting a business-oriented mindset can help boost your budget
  • What you need to do in order to build a bulletproof case for increased PR funding
  • And, finally, how to recover from having your PR budget cut

Here are the webcast details:

What: Using Measurement to Grow PR Budgets webinar

When: Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time

Cost: None

I’d love to have you join us for this webinar. During the program I’ll also be answering questions from listeners. I hope you’ll consider listening in and joining our discussion. You can register for the program and see more details about the webcast here.

If you can’t attend the live event, but you’re interested in learning how to convince your clients or executives that PR deserves more funding, the recorded program will be available on-demand following the live webcast.   

As always, thanks for following the Measurement Minute and being an active part of the measurement discussion.

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Bouncing back after a budget cut

Recovering from a PR budget cut can be challenging. If your budget decreased at any point during the last several years, and you want to get it back to at least where it was previously, there are a few things you can try:

One strategy is to take advantage of a pain point that clients and executives care about: losing to competitors.  If executives think the company is faring just fine with the (smaller) budget you have now, there is no real reason to increase the budget.  But, if you can prove that PR was helping the business stay competitive – and that once the budget was cut, the company lost ground to competitors, you may have a shot at retrieving those lost dollars.

In order to make this strategy work, you are going to need to collect data from the year prior to when the budget was cut. Then, also collect data for the period of time when you were working from the smaller budget – after the cut. You’ll need data for your company and your competitors. Why? Because you need to show that during the time when the budget was higher – you were on par with (or beating) your competitors.  Then you can make the case that once the budget was cut, competitors gained ground and you lost ground.

I should point out that taking this approach with executives means walking a fine line. That’s because, on one hand, you really should be striving to show that your program has gained efficiencies and you’re able to do more with less. On the other hand, you also need to show that adding to the budget will help the company get a foothold on the competitors once again.

Another thing to note about trying to get a budget back on track is that you’ll have to prove there is a real business case for a budget increase. This means presenting some compelling projections to prove that increasing the PR budget will help achieve the company’s business goals. It is critical to convince executives that more money equals more returns, be that in the form of sales, new leads, faster growth.

You may need to go back to square one and ask some probing questions to make sure you have a true understanding of what the actual business goals are. Let’s face it, if your budget was cut in the first place, there is a possibility that there was a disconnect somewhere that caused the cut. So, you want to be sure that you do, in fact, understand what is most important to executives, and you know what PR is expected to achieve. That way you can build a solid strategy around achieving the company’s goals.

Your PR strategy has to be on target if you are going to be awarded more money.  If the sales team is tasked with selling a high margin product – and you’re focused on promoting a commoditized offering because it’s a hot topic – you may need to adjust your strategy to ensure it maps to the company’s sales objectives. 

Part of your strategy for earning back the budget dollars that were cut should be making sure you are completely in tune with business goals, so that you can map all PR efforts to those goals. Showing executives you understand business priorities, and you have a plan to achieve goals and meet PR’s expectations, will help you make your case.

Prove you can work wonders with a budget – Using measurement to grow your PR budget (Part 3)

When it comes to building a case for an expanded PR budget, I like to recommend the following three part approach that I’ve personally found to be very successful:

1. Use measurement data to show what you’ve achieved with the current budget

2. Layout the goals

3. Define what you are asking for and explain how that will drive even greater results

From what I’ve learned in my experiences dealing with executives, I think it is important to address these three areas when you make your budget pitch. Here is a closer look at the first of these three steps: Use measurement data to show what you’ve achieved with the current budget…

In a previous post I mentioned that before you sit down with executives and ask for more money for PR, you need to make sure your program is performing at its peak. If you’ve done the work and you are achieving great results it is time to begin making your budget pitch – starting by showing off all of those great results PR has produced.

Sit down with execs and give them some solid examples of business successes that PR is responsible for. Make sure that the information you provide is clear and meaningful. Remember, executives are business-minded, so they value seeing things like charts, sales numbers, graphs, ROI, growth figures, and anything else that demonstrates business outcomes linked to PR.

Ideally you’ve been measuring the results of your PR program and you have a good amount of information at your disposal to help demonstrate what PR has achieved with its current budget. If you don’t have baseline information available, you’ll have to go back and collect this previous data. Don’t overlook the importance of collecting measurement data – without it you’ll have a tough time convincing executives that PR has been successful and deserves more money.

Once you have collected your data, you want to pull the most convincing and relevant info so that you can clearly demonstrate to executives how PR has successfully impacted the business.

Make sure that as you layout PR accomplishments, you support your claims with data and facts. And be sure that you are linking the PR activities you executed with positive business results. For example, if sales increased by 200% because of PR efforts, you need to show that PR was directly responsible for that business win.

Using data and making a clear connection between PR and business success will show executives that they are getting their money’s worth out of PR. It will make them feel more confident that PR is using its current budget to deliver positive business results. And that is the first step in building your case for a PR budget increase.

DON’T think like a PR pro… Using measurement to grow your PR budget – part 2

So, you want more money for your PR program, and you’re preparing to meet with executives to make your request. As you work to put together a convincing argument for why PR should be granted a budget increase, there is something important you need to keep in mind: When planning your argument – don’t think like a PR pro. Instead, when the time comes to sit down with executives and talk money, you need to enter into the discussion thinking like an executive.

Executives are business-minded, and you need to be too when you propose a budget increase. That’s why getting into the right mindset prior to meeting with executives is a must.

Let’s face it, most PR professionals tend to focus on ideas, campaigns, and PR activities. And, we can be really passionate about our ideas and strategies. So, we need to remember what it is we are trying to achieve.

If you want more funding for a PR campaign, you have to sell execs on the “budget increase” and not on how cool or innovative the campaign will be. Yes, you need to have solid ideas for how you want to use additional budget dollars, and you need to be able to present those ideas in a professional way. But, you have to really focus on the business side and make sure you’re answering questions about investment returns. Do not just talk about the PR tasks you will perform.

Don’t think that just because you have some creative ideas executives will be willing to give the program a green light. They need to be assured that spending money on PR will lead to returns for the business. Honestly, one of the biggest mistakes PR professionals make when asking for a budget increase is going into the discussion and focusing on campaigns and activities. The executives don’t really care about that. What they want to know is:

  1. How you’ve already moved the needle for the company with the budget you’ve been allotted?
  2. How an increased budget will increase results – what PR output and business outcome results can you project based on a larger budget?
  3. That you understand their business concerns and can speak their language

Keeping these points in mind will help you settle in to the right “mindset” before you sit down with execs. Remember, if you don’t make it a point to take off your PR hat and look at things from the executives’ view point, you’re probably going to have a tough time selling your proposed budget increase.

Using measurement to grow your PR budget – part 1

I think it is safe to say that PR professionals are always looking for a way to grow their budgets. Many in the PR industry have either faced tight budgets or cuts in recent years. As the economy shows signs of improvement, you may be hoping to add some dollars to your PR budget. But, as I’m sure you realize, being awarded more dollars for PR is not something that just “happens.” Instead, it takes hard work, some solid information, and a good amount of persuading to earn the budget increase that we’d all like to see.

Before you approach executives to ask for additional funding for your PR program, you first want to do everything possible to make it easy for them to say “YES.” So, how do you do that? Well, you start by making absolutely sure that you are maximizing your existing PR budget. After all, you can’t create a very strong case for adding to the PR budget, if you aren’t successfully managing what you already have.

Executives need to understand how PR is responsible for positively impacting the business and that it is a good investment. So, take time to review your program and make sure it IS a good investment – one that is worthy of additional funding. Executives will be more willing to entertain requests for additional resources if they have seen proof that PR is getting the most out of every single allotted dollar.

You know, a lot of clients and executives aren’t certain about what they are actually getting for their PR spend. They don’t know if a program is performing at the optimum level, or if money is being wasted. Without the absolute understanding that PR is making the most out of the existing budget, few executives will feel confident that spending additional money on PR is worth it. Clients and execs need to be assured that spending money on PR is a wise business decision.

So, get your program into perfect working order long before you plan to ask for a budget increase. That way, when the time comes to ask for more money you can point to your successful program to help make a case for funding.

Here are some ways to fine-tune your program and position PR as an essential business component that is worthy of more resources:

  • Drive efficiencies into your program – Take calculated steps to make sure that your strategy (and every PR activity) is laser focused and designed to produce specific results.
  • Use measurement information to determine what is working and what is not – Track PR efforts to gain an understanding of the areas you need to focus on most so you can accomplish the best results. Measure and analyze PR results so you can make informed decisions about how to use your budget dollars efficiently.
  • Eliminate activities that aren’t getting proven results – When data suggests that certain areas of your program are not producing results, make changes and improvements that will lead to more desirable outcomes.
  • Have a plan for dealing with distractions – If you’re going to invest time and effort into creating, executing and tracking a targeted campaign, you need to make sure your success isn’t sidetracked. So, create a plan for dealing with distractions and stick to it.

Clients want to know: How can we improve our PR program?

Lately I’ve been weighing in on some of the different performance questions that clients ask PR teams. In this post I want to examine this topic further, and focus specifically on the following question that clients often ask: How can we improve our PR program?

It doesn’t matter how successful your program has been, at some point your client is going to come to you with a question like:

  • What PR efforts are working? What’s not working?
  • Where can we improve?
  • What can we learn from our competitors?

By knowing the answer to these questions you can keep a step ahead of your clients. That way you won’t be scrambling for answers when pressed for information on how the program can achieve even more. In order to win confidence and support from clients, it is important for agencies to be able to demonstrate forward thinking by effectively communicating fact based answers to questions.

So, if your client wants to know which PR efforts are working and which ones are not, how do you respond in a way that proves you aren’t just shooting from the hip – that you truly understand where you have (or have not) performed well?

Here is what you do: Make a list of the PR activities that were directly responsible for delivering positive results and meeting goals. Analyze your list and try to determine trends or factors that could lead to even greater future successes. Adjust your PR strategy accordingly. Also, make a list of PR activities that did not produce positive results and make plans to adjust or eliminate those activities. 

Here is a sample answer you could give if asked to explain what areas of your PR program are working or not working:

“Based on research and customer feedback we have identified increased product review coverage as a driving factor behind the 125% sales increase we saw last quarter. The team worked to increase total product reviews by 200%, securing a total of 48 product reviews worldwide. Since we have found evidence to suggest that nearly 1/3 of last quarter’s sales were influenced by product reviews, we plan to continue an aggressive push to achieve coverage that consists of at least 35% product reviews.”

“Conversely, our data shows that the customer referral program was only responsible for generating 2% of all sales this quarter. We are looking at making changes to how we promote the referral program in order to make it more enticing.”

Since evaluating what is and isn’t working requires looking at a number of different activities and factors, you absolutely want to have charts, graphs and other reports on-hand for your clients to view. This will help clients visualize the results you are reporting, along with the plan you’re laying out for future efforts.

If you are committed to getting the best results from PR, you should know what PR efforts are – and are not – working long before you’re confronted by a client. The only way to know this is by measuring and analyzing your PR efforts on an ongoing basis. Then, when the client does ask, it just becomes a matter of communicating your findings and showing your client some supporting data.

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