PR Measurement Series: Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications
1. In terms of measurement, how have you seen the role and expectations of the PR department evolve?
As technology advances and the media landscape continues to change, PR measurement has to change too. PR professionals are even more accountable at a time when many still find it difficult to make their PR efforts “tangible." After working with hundreds of professionals over the years, and “listening" closely in my social media communities, I saw PR’s role evolve into a practice that I coined as the “Master of the Metrics.” Among the responsibilities were connecting communication goals to higher level business objectives, understanding that business executives want business metrics, and knowing which ones effectively demonstrate valuable outcomes versus the measures that reveal communication outputs or the tactics we implement as a part of our programs.
Becoming a Master of the Metrics means you must work closely with professionals in marketing, sales and customer service, to name few areas, gaining access to other important customer data. With a more complete data picture you can see how PR optimizes marketing, maintains a healthy brand and helps to fuel sales, which was much more difficult to demonstrate in years past.
2. What are the most common PR measurement challenges your clients experience?
Measurement has been a challenge since the days of the clipping service and the big clip books. We use to joke about the “Thump Test.” The louder the thumps of the clip book on the conference room table, the larger the measure of success for the PR team. As technology advances, there are challenges through new media channels. Do you know specifically what you want to achieve through your communication channels, including social media? Are you setting up your measurement programs with the right resources in place to accurately track back to the expectations you set? The answers to these questions will help minimize the challenges.
Other challenges include learning the best ways to capture and evaluate PR data as well as other data sets from different areas of the business. PR is a piece of the larger Return on Investment (ROI) puzzle. The good news, technology and the tools available are more powerful. You have a way to track your communication outreach from click to conversion. The old "thump test" is a measure of the past because embracing data literacy and working outside of your own silo helps to prove PR value.
3. How do you advise PR managers on improving their measurement strategy?
When you want to improve your measurement strategy start with nailing down your goals and objectives, and being very specific about what you want to achieve through different media. Conducting an audit of your previous communication helps you to understand what an audience needs from you and what they expect to experience through different channels. Your research and background analysis will help to guide your messaging and offer you important insights on how your communication will resonate through a mix of media moving forward. The effort you put into your research improves not only how you develop and deliver important news, but also shapes how you measure an audience’s reactions, perceptions and engagement around what you share.
In addition, building your measurement strategy today requires hands on experience with technology, knowing how to capture the performance analytics that reveal how messages resonate with target audiences through different media channels. When PR managers know how to set up a measurement dashboard capturing the metrics to show valuable outcomes, to compare PR measurement findings with other data sets in your organization, and to report findings in the appropriate format, then they are well on their way to demonstrating that they have a successful measurement strategy in place.
4. How can PR leaders better align their measurement activities with the business goals of their leadership team?
In order to align measurement activities with business goals you have to tie your communication outreach to those very goals. For example, understanding how your communication is a part of a larger picture in the organization or connecting your communication to the financial buckets is key. I always encourage PR professionals to ask questions including: How does your communication affect the health of the brand and the company’s reputation? How does your media and stakeholder outreach optimize the company’s marketing program? What are you doing in PR that tracks directly back to your website to help drive leads and sales? How does PR demonstrate that you help to build a community of happy customers and also save the company money as a result, especially when issues and / or crisis strikes?
These are a few of the questions because measurement activities begin with a clear understanding of how your communication helps the business. Securing media coverage, customer endorsements, building community relationships etc., all have to be evaluated in a way that helps leadership and the C-Suite to see what you do in PR impacts the business.
5. Where do you see the future of PR with marketing and sales?
I’ve always tied marketing, sales and public relations together. Years ago, I owned a marketing communications company. Our clients would always separate their campaigns. They wanted to work with our creative marketing department on advertising and digital programs and the PR and communications department for media coverage and crisis. However, as an agency, internally we would bring our marketing and PR teams together to brainstorm and build strategy together regardless of which department the client had retained.
At the same time, the PR team would ask to meet with the client’s sales executives and representatives sending a clear message to them. PR was also accountable and our communication was very much tied to marketing and sales. We knew the importance of supporting their goals and what building valuable business relationships meant to them. The future of PR is marketing, sales, customer service, etc., coming together to support the messaging and creative experiences for customers and other stakeholders through a mix of media.
Today storytelling and sharing company news goes across the organization affecting different areas. Professionals need to rally around a common goal, which is to create best experiences possible for their customers. The customer doesn’t ask, “Was it PR, marketing or sales who made this a great experience for me?” On the contrary, they just want the very best experience with the company exceeding their expectations every time. This type of experience is achieved by a village of people who come together from different areas of the business. Together they can help to meet those expectations at every communication touch point. PR, marketing and sales are crucial areas that must come together, making happier customers not just a goal but a reality for the business.
Pure Performance Communications podcaster Lynda.com video author Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional
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