Practicing public relations in the corporate setting has many challenges, one of which proving your impact on the bottom line. Here are a few ways to demonstrate your value to management:
Plan well. Less is more. You don’t need a 250-page PR plan. Try an eight page PR plan, with the thinking you’ll do three or four things incredibly well. Sometimes you feel the pressure that you’ve got to do more, faster, but the truth is, you can’t. You can’t move faster than the organizational thinking. Instead, try to figure out where you want to start, and make sure you can dedicate enough resources to it. It’s the biggest challenge—prioritizing tomorrow’s direction with today’s needs, but doing only the critical things, quarter in and quarter out.
Be a good communicator, listener and educator. Too often, non-PR professionals don’t know what they don’t know about PR. That’s why you exist: to teach them, consult with them, help them better understand the process. You’re not an order taker. You’re the one who listens to what their needs are and counsels them along the way.
Be good at building partnerships. For any PR initiative to succeed, you’ve got to have the trust and buy-in of all key constituents in the organization: line managers, regional managers and each step up the management ladder. Spend time talking to people, and listening, so that you come to be considered a member of their team.
Know how to talk to members of the C-Suite. Most people in top leadership positions speak the language of numbers. Learn the language of analytics, and you’ll earn their trust and respect. Produce reports like clockwork. Monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual reports. How many Twitter followers? How many applications taken? The numbers, the measurement, are crucial.
To illustrate the application of PR leadership skills, consider the story of how a prominent bank became an early, “all in” adopter of social media, one of the many communications channels, as a PR tool:
The PR team realized early on the potential of social media, but the question at the time was, where do we want to head with it? When they engaged senior management, (who were not as in-tune with audience outreach as they were), their first question was, ‘Why?’ The PR team asked management to give them three months before making a specific recommendation. They spent the next 90 days investing the time to build relationships with key people inside the organization so that when the time to present the plan came, they achieved what they call the ‘Bobble Head Effect,’ which is everyone nodding in unison.
Measurement and ROI. Develop a systemized approach to setting up and measuring results, which starts by asking the following questions:
What resources are available?
- What’s my access to data in the system?
- What kind of data does management want to see?
- How much is our investment versus sales volume? (if applicable)
It’s easier to measure ROI for a product launch than it is for new customer campaigns, so methods of evaluation must be established from the start.