PR pros are too in touch with their feelings

It’s true, I think a lot of PR pros are way too in touch with their feelings. Now, let me explain that statement by putting it into context – I believe PR professionals are too in touch with their feelings when it comes to evaluating PR results.

To truly evaluate and understand the success of a PR program you need something much more accurate than a feeling or a hunch. You need facts, figures, numbers, and data. Gut-feelings and instincts don’t provide a true representation of what PR has achieved. Unfortunately, too many PR professionals rely on their feelings as an indication of PR’s success, and they even base important strategy decisions on those feelings. Why? Because they don’t have a process in place to collect information and analyze results.

Consider these responses PR professionals shared when asked about how they evaluate PR:

• Barely one-third of PR practitioners say they know for certain whether or not they’re beating their competitors on the PR front.

• Less than 45 percent of PR professionals are confident they know whether their key messages are getting through.

• Just over half (56 percent) of PR professionals can determine what percentage of their coverage is business press vs. consumer press vs. trade press vs. blogs.

• Only 35 percent of PR pros can answer the question, “How often are your executives getting quoted vs. competitor executives?”

• 55% of PR pros are confident they know which of their products are getting the most coverage/visibility. The rest said they either didn’t know, or would have to guess based on instincts.

These numbers are based on real survey responses, and they clearly show that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding PR program results. What’s interesting is that of the PR professionals that participated in this survey, only 25% were utilizing a formal PR measurement solution. Had more of these survey participants been collecting and analyzing measurement data pertaining to their PR programs, they would likely have a much better understanding of the results PR was producing. And, consequently, they’d be in a much better position to say whether they were beating their competitors, effectively communicating key messages, earning the “right” coverage, and so on.

So, while I do believe that there are plenty of times when “being in touch with your feelings” is a good thing, I think that in order to do good PR, teams should have a clear understanding of the outcomes PR is producing – and that understanding comes from measuring and analyzing data… not from feelings.

 

 

Chart depicts responses submitted by PR professionals as part of the PR and Measurement Survey

What do executives want most from PR?

For PR agencies, understanding client expectations is a key part of making client-agency relationships work. Let’s face it, every year too many client-agency relationships fail. Often times when these relationships run into trouble it is because of poor communication between the PR team and the client or executive team.

So what is it that clients and executives want most from PR? While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, there are a few important things to note about the expectations that clients and executives have for PR. Here are a few observations shared by PR pros themselves:

Clients and executives have high expectations when it comes to PR results. And, even though many PR budgets have faced cuts in the past few years, overall, expectations from clients and executives have not been adjusted to reflect the fewer resources many PR programs are now being allotted. According to a recent survey, 41 percent of PR pros say that executives want PR to achieve more results on a smaller budget. Another 41 percent of PR professionals believe executives expect PR to optimize programs in order to achieve more with existing budgets. Finally, a mere four percent of all PR professionals feel executives are willing to adjust expectations and accept less when budgets are cut.

So, if clients and executives are truly demanding more results on smaller budgets, how can PR live up to all that is expected of it? For starters, PR teams need to:

  • Be upfront about expectations. Clearly define business objectives and the goals PR is expected to achieve.
  • Define success. Make sure both sides agree on how progress will be measured – then openly communicate about PR developments.
  • Measure and analyze results. Track campaign progress and use that information to steer future PR efforts.
  • Be open to change. Look for ways to eliminate inefficiencies and get more out of every PR dollar. Don’t be afraid to make strategy adjustments in order to optimize the program.

Are PR budgets under attack?

Survey responses from the PR and Measurement Survey.

Last week Wallop! OnDemand released a survey report containing information about current PR budget trends. One of the things the report revealed was that for most PR professionals, budgets have either shrunk recently, or they’ve remained static. Very few agencies or businesses have had the luxury of seeing their PR budgets grow. In fact, according to the report, 42 percent of PR pros have recently experienced a budget cut, while another 46 percent are stuck with static budgets. Only 12 percent of PR professionals have experienced budget growth in the last 12 months.   

So, what do these numbers mean? Are PR budgets under attack? Are companies losing faith and pulling their money out of PR? Should industry professionals be worried that 38 percent of communications professionals saw a company cut PR entirely in 2010?

Not necessarily. Here’s my take on these numbers…

When you pair these budget trends with the rising expectations clients have for their PR programs, it seems likely that what businesses actually want is for PR to optimize programs and produce more with less. Agencies and PR departments that can find a way to do this will be able to deliver what their clients and executives want: great results and great value.

When your clients expect bigger and better results without a bigger investment, you have your work cut out for you. In this case, you need to seriously evaluate your campaign and identify what is working and what is not. By doing so you’ll be able to capitalize on the areas of your campaign that are producing the best results. Then you can adjust or eliminate PR efforts that aren’t delivering.

Take a look at the business outcomes your execs expect PR to accomplish, and revisit the PR goals your team has set. Ask yourself how successful you’ve been at reaching those goals, and determine if there are ways to streamline efforts and make the program more efficient. Be sure to use actual data to help you evaluate and improve your strategy. When budget dollars are on the line, you want to be making informed decisions and not just guessing. The unfortunate truth is that when PR teams don’t deliver what clients and executives want, their budgets are in jeopardy, and they may even run the risk of being replaced.

Continuing to measure results and evaluate your program will allow you to make better decisions and fine tune your strategy so that your campaign will be in top working order. That way you’ll be in a position to impress clients and executives by giving them what they truly want – a PR program that can achieve more with less.

PR budgets survey report released

I wanted to take a minute and share that we’ve released a report containing findings from our PR and Measurement survey. The 2011 PR Budget Trends and Expectations report reveals juicy info shared by members of the PR community on topics ranging from budgets, to measurement, to proving PR’s value to executives. You can find more details about the report here, or download your own copy of the report.

Here is a look at some of the survey results you’ll find in the report:

  • According to survey participants, most PR budgets have either remained static (46%) or decreased (42%).
  • The majority of PR professionals (81%) predict budgets will either stay the same, or see only a moderate increase in the near future.
  • A mere 4 percent of all PR professionals surveyed feel executives are willing to adjust their expectations to accept less when budgets are cut.
  • Although 83% of PR professionals believe that measurement is a “must have,” less than 25% of those surveyed said they’re leveraging a sophisticated measurement solution that allows them to produce advanced reports with charts, graphs and other metrics
  • When the executive team asks what they are getting for their PR spend, only half of PR professionals say they can confidently provide well-prepared reports to clearly highlight PR results.

I’ll be taking a closer look at these points in future posts, so stay tuned. Until then, feel free to check out the report and share your impressions of the survey findings.

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