A potential recession seems possible. As such, industries, including PR, increasingly are under pressure. Accordingly, discussion during a recent networking dinner of senior communicators focused on how PR can show value. Attendees included senior communicators from CBS News, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Meta.
Below are notable takeaways.
The importance of education
As we sipped wine and shared stories about justifying PR budgets, it was clear that, as an industry, we’re failing to educate customers and decision makers about PR’s purpose and function.
In many cases, it’s not a lack of success that puts PR on the chopping block. Rather, it’s misalignment and confusion between PR teams and those they represent. Some C-suite executives don’t understand PR.
Accordingly, PR pros must identify those skeptical or detached decision makers quickly, then agree on a definition of PR. For example, is PR earned media alone? If so, what are the target audiences and verticals?
Or, is PR earned media plus paid marketing?
Definitions can vary widely, of course. Establishing clarity early is key. This will save headaches and heartache later.
Use smart tools
Historically, media monitoring was reactive. PR scrambled to frame, promote or respond after something was published.
But, it’s clear the old ways, techniques and tools are dying in favor of smarter, more proactive strategies. Media monitoring was a give-it-to-the-intern task. It’s a strategic role now. Communicators can anticipate what coverage could come, prepare for it or even head it off.
We know PR is much more quantitative and data-driven today. However, compared to marketing or sales, there’s a lack of sophistication about data management. In addition, data quality and cleanliness are particular issues.
You see this when developing competitor share of voice reports, or even in basic organic media analyses. Worse, there’s no simple solution. It's a complicated problem.
Generally speaking, PR pros understand there are data-quality challenges. However, they lack the time and resources needed to address them. PR agencies often under-hire dedicated data analysts. Smaller teams lack dedicated data personnel.
To get around this, some outsource their data work. Unfortunately, too many vendor personnel have little understanding of the industry or company you’re representing or its stakeholders. This and other issues compound data-quality woes.
Ultimately, PR teams must invest more in personnel with data knowledge and/or hire better vendors.
Diners mentioned the so-called reactive trap often. PR pros often fall into a predictable cadence of merchandising successes at day's end. Some do so at the end of the week, month, quarter or year.
A better approach is promoting value daily, throughout the day–and aggressively.
PR cannot be cute or apprehensive when claiming wins or planting flags. It must realize it’s still an underdog discipline. A seat at the table is not assured.
Show value every day or you won’t make it to the end of the quarter to present your spiffy deck. This means finding ways to frame all PR-relevant results–even those that are organic–as attributable to your work. It can also mean offering counsel unexpectedly–a social media post you saw on LinkedIn that might be ill advised for one reason or another.
If we don’t step up, PR will continue as an elective—window dressing rather than an essential part of a brand’s foundation and strategy.
As PR prepares for uncertain times, educating stakeholders and decision-makers and demonstrating value are key. In addition, we must improve essential functions and processes, such as media monitoring and become more sophisticated about data. This will better position PR and those who rely on us today and tomorrow.
Chris Harihar is a partner at Crenshaw Communications
Editor’s Note: Crenshaw Communications client Signal AI hosted the dinner mentioned above. The writer’s views do not necessarily reflect those of PRNEWS. We invite opposing essays from readers.