For public relations and communications teams everywhere, the last four months have probably felt like a mad dash through a maze of planning, end of year meetings for 2023 and kick-off meetings for 2024. It’s no wonder by the time we get to the third week of January we already feel like it’s been the longest year ever. But here we are, February. Our plans are in place and we’re ready to roll.
But are we?
Throughout my career, one of the things with which I’ve challenged myself most is to take a pause and ask the hardest question of all - are we actually driving results for the business. It may feel like an obvious question, but in the dynamic world of public relations and communications, where projects can run the gamut from product launches to crisis communications to customer events, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and emotion of an assignment and lose sight of the bigger picture.
As you dive head first into 2024 and start executing away (as only public relations and communications teams do best), here are three key questions you can use to gut check yourself and make sure you stay on track:
1. How does our plan align with business strategy?
Picture yourself in front of the CEO, explaining how your PR initiatives contribute to the broader organizational goals. If you can confidently articulate the alignment between your activities and the business strategy, you're on the right track. If not, it's time to reassess your approach.
Your CEO will ask you, and you need to be able to answer, “What’s the real challenge that you’re trying to solve for.” The answer is never “more media coverage.” Instead, understand the larger macro environment your organization is operating in. Then look at the goals of the business , which could range from driving more sales to reshaping customer perceptions, or empowering employees.
Remember, media coverage serves as a means to an end. It’s not the goal in and of itself. If you can’t make a direct or indirect argument for how the project will drive revenue, think carefully about whether the project is a priority.
2. Are you measuring your work?
Say it with me, “if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.”
But I hear you, quantifying the impact of PR is still just really hard - there’s no other way to say it. However, it's imperative to establish a clear connection between our initiatives and revenue generation.
Start with having specific, measurable, time-based objectives. Then leverage traditional tactics like measuring quality of coverage, social media impact and share of voice. Take it even farther and work with your martech team and identify within your existing systems how to best draw the line from the work you’re doing to the growth of the business. Partner with them to focus on quantifiable outcomes such as lead generation, conversion rates, and brand sentiment analysis. Leverage advanced analytics tools to glean actionable insights and refine your strategies accordingly.
Lastly, and often my favorite, ask employees what they think. Employees are the first line of defense and the best extension of your company’s voice and, as a result of this, are perhaps your best litmus test for whether or not an idea has value. They know the business better than anyone, so before putting a plan in place, pause and ask a few colleagues for their opinions. If you’re not getting a warm and fuzzy reaction, you may want to reconsider.
Measuring the effectiveness of PR initiatives requires a multifaceted approach and is not always the most fun work. It's work to get there, but it's worth it.
3. Do you have the right resources in place to get the work done?
PR professionals are never lacking for ideas. But ideas require resources. From budget to people, you need money and boots on the ground to bring your programs to life.
There are two things I want you to ask yourself. Are you using your dollars as efficiently as possible; if it was your own money, would you be happy with the way you’re spending? And, do you have the right resources in place to help you execute? If you’re using an agency, have you set them up for success?
In my twenty years as a communications and marketing professional, I’ve spent the majority of that time as a “client” and in the process have learned a few things about how to effectively manage an agency. Hiring a PR and communications agency can be one of the single largest investments that a marketing or communications team makes and trust me, no one wants the relationship to be successful more than your agency. My best piece of advice for anyone that works with an agency is that your agency relationship is typically a direct reflection of the culture of your own team. If you take the time to brief them on projects, keep them up to date on the business and manage their time and priorities they will do great work for you.
As you head into 2024, make sure you know the changing dynamics within your industry, the business priorities of your organization and how you’re going to measure your work. Creating great PR strategies and tactics is the cost of entry. If you want to succeed in 2024, put the needs of the business first. Challenge yourself to see the larger corporate strategy, understand the issues that need to be solved for, identify the gaps in solving the issue and then recommend the right communications solution to help close them.
Learn more about our approach to PR and communications strategy that supports business needs and stay tuned for more helpful content this year.
Posted In: PR
With a quarter-century of corporate communications experience, Jessica Antle stands as a seasoned professional, trusted by CEOs with their most critical business issues. Her expertise spans building brands through thought leadership, managing sensitive corporate and financial events, crisis and employee communications, and content management strategy. Currently, she is the Practice Lead for PR and Strategic Communications at Beacon Digital.