Proving PR’s Business Value Easier Said than Done, But Not Impossible

Feb 11, 2013

Here we go kicking off another week full of media pitching, content marketing, social business and thought leadership strategies, pitching for new business and, most importantly, keeping ThinkInk clients very happy. How do we do that?  It’s not easy but we start by demonstrating and creating value in everything we do.  Why do it otherwise?

So this week’s theme is all about value – what we create for our clients and ourselves.  We’d love to get your views on demonstrating value to your clients, whether or not you’re in PR. What are the biggest hurdles you face? And your advice to others?

Please share your comments with us below.

“To know your enemy you must become your enemy” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War, ancient Chinese military treatise

ValueThe above quote might sound a little harsh, especially as it relates to public relations and determining its business value, but this is essentially what Kristin Jones, CEO of Wallop! OnDemand, suggests in a recent post on Bulldog Reporter article without directly saying it.

Jones argues that in order for PR execs and their companies to maximize their value to clients, they must begin thinking like them. In fact, not just think like them, but propose solutions and pitches that demonstrate an ability to act like them too. While clients certainly aren’t the enemy of PR companies, sometimes the economics-based and direct dollar value language they speak is so foreign to communications industry pros (who know more about marketing campaigns, crisis management and the sometimes-fuzzy ad value math) that those aspects of a client’s business can feel adversarial. The result is a PR team reduced to second- or third-place status rather than being an integral component to boardroom “elites” or partners.

Jones recommends the following steps to counter this problem:

  • Educate yourself on the economics behind value
  • Make value creation your mission
  • Step out of the shadows

But after reading her article again I was left with this nagging question…. how do PR execs actually educate themselves on the economics behind value?

The answer: they must become their enemy.

Mind you, this is not an easy task. Many in the PR industry claim to have gone the communications route partly because their brains “aren’t wired for finance or business.” Let someone else crunch the numbers I’ve heard many a time. Earning an MBA might seem impractical for more senior executives, but perhaps PR agencies should begin recruiting those with business backgrounds – much in the way they’ve hired ex-journalists to help tell more compelling client stories. Another approach might be an expanded role for a PR company’s in-house accountant, an individual most likely to appreciate and understand your client’s by-the-numbers needs.

coursera logoThere’s also continuing education on the cheap. Coursera, founded last April, is a for-profit online educational outlet that provides free web video courses and has gained significant notoriety in the past several months, attracting some $22 million in venture capital. Courses, which include topics on economics and business strategy, (among many others) are broken up into multiple pre-recorded sessions along with quizzes and the occasional written assignment. How much or how little the student does is entirely up to them.

So perhaps PR agencies should carve out additional time for staff to make use of resources like this. It won’t raise your company’s business IQ overnight. But it could make a lasting, positive impression whose “compounded interest” – an economic term we all should know – really adds up.

And isn’t that what PR is about after all?

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