One of the greatest opportunities and challenges of the corporate public relations practitioner is reconciling and aligning the company’s business strategy with the departmental goals. While we plan and budget for strategies that unquestionably build and preserve the brand – such as the role that earned media plays in netting share of voice among the competitors, helping to mitigate risks, and the messages and spokespersons that are earning the most influential news media coverage – it may be more challenging to directly and numerically connect these metrics to increasing the bottom line.
Similarly, agency practitioners are challenged to fully understand and evolve with their clients’ strategic priorities of today and tomorrow, even when assignments may appear to be more tactical in nature. Once again, the true value of the public relations function can be seen when the results map back to – or as closely as possible to – corporate business goals.
Achieving this alignment consistently takes a good deal of forethought, discipline, and potentially budget dollars.
To get the process started for both the corporate and agency practitioner consider the following in the earliest stages of the planning process:
1) Determine what business priorities can be impacted the most with media relations. Corporations may have up to a half dozen strategic business priorities, but the media relations practitioner may better be able to influence one over the other. For example, improving and maintaining the quality of service provided by a company may not be the best business goal to align with, nor would developing a portfolio of competitive, profitable solutions and products. Media relations may be able to influence the public perception of these items, but the direct impact to these corporate goals will likely be difficult to numerically measure. It’s also time to learn the importance of diversity in the workplace.
On the other hand, a media relations program could more directly impact a goal to recruit new talent with a high likelihood of success by linking back to specific earned media that are recognized as influencing the right cohort to look into joining your company’s sales force. Growing a participating customer base is another example that can be linked back to earned media assets that drive traffic to a web landing page that then drives requests for appointments.
2) Benchmark. The biggest key to determining attainment of corporate business goals is to benchmark. As an example, in order to show an increase in traffic to a website, the usual amount of traffic must be determined. Only by understanding how many potential clients ask to set up an appointment with a sales professional on any given day can an increase to that number can be established. Sometimes the benchmark may be regularly captured and is easily accessible. Other times, an effort to capture that benchmark must be built into the media relations plan. Establishing this need early in the process is paramount, especially if the benchmarking process will impact the campaign budget.
If the media relations goal is indeed to influence public perception, then the baseline public perception must be understood before undertaking efforts to change it. Additionally, the measure itself should be vetted with key stakeholders to ensure it is of value and holds merit.
3) Budget for regular measurement of the significant factors. Both on a project basis and for ongoing media relations work, sustainable measurement is necessary. Once media relations goals have been linked to corporate business goals, and the measurements necessary to determine whether or not these goals are being met have been decided, budget dollars – sometimes significant budget dollars – must be allocated.
A significant amount of time has been devoted to helping media relations practitioners “earn a seat at the table.” Meaningful and valued numeric metrics directly aligned with corporate goals are a driving force behind media relations resourcing and programming and one of the best ways to earn that seat.