Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hope and the PR Hop

With nearly two decades as a public relations professional and 15 years of pitching the service to corporate executives, I have long been tormented by the hard to measure ROI of my craft.

The value proposition of a PR investment is fairly straightforward: the increased awareness and credibility from media coverage and analyst commentary creates an environment in which a company can more successfully execute its growth strategy. People do business with companies they know and trust, and that's what public relations delivers.

Yet, this value proposition rests on the shaky foundation of hope. Consider the media relations process. Here's how it goes...I hope I can get a journalist interested in writing a story. I hope my spokesperson is on message. I hope the reporter gets the story right. I hope someone who is important comes across the article. And I hope it inspires them to take action.

Simply put, this is too much hope for a result with a value that is fuzzy at best.

Social media changes this paradigm. No longer are public relations professionals slaves to the traditional channels of influence. We don't need to hope for the hop from journalist to reader.

That's because in social networks and online communities participants self-identify by who they are, where they work, their responsibilities on the job, and professional and personal interests. We can now connect with target audiences directly with content that engages, educates and entertains.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we've found that by distributing and promoting content based on thought leadership, industry insight and best practices, key audiences will demonstrate interest by how they invest their time. They may choose to follow on Twitter. Request to connect in LinkedIn. Or comment on a blog.

They're raising a hand and, in many instances, communicating they are open to a more meaningful conversation. These contacts via social networks should be viewed as sales leads, potential partners or new hires.

For the public relations professional our work becomes measurable and closely aligned with the success of the business...and there is no hope about it.

3 comments:

Jen McNeil said...

Hi Marc et All,

I agree the hands-on merits of social media are exciting and I (like many PR professionals) have been closely following the debate around ROI for social media. I found this recent article on enterprise-level social media ROI particularly telling.

http://www.internetevolution.com/document.asp?doc_id=173854

Cheers,

Jen McNeil
McNeil Communications
http://twitter.com/JenRMcNeil

Anonymous said...

Amen brother! I've always struggled with this challenge. PRSA puts a great emphasis on reasearch and measurement, which I can understand but we are still left with the fact that unless you make people fill out a survey or something saying they visited this website, bought this thing because they read about it in the NY Times it is almost impossible to determine the exact measurement of PR. In addition, how do you measure reputation? How do you measure a "feeling" positive or negative towards an organization? Recent news shows us how important it is for companies to communicate with consumers directly and earn their trust and that could not be done without PR. I would venture to say that PR is priceless.

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