Based on what we’ve heard from our clients, COVID-19 has caused some companies to reevaluate their PR activities and who will be responsible for them. Instead of outsourcing to PR agencies or consultants, organizations are taking back ownership and creating, building or expanding their in-house teams.
The following three tips are meant to help in-house PR departments streamline their workflow, nail their social media and prove their value, whether they are small, newly formed, or are experiencing some growing pains—or some combination thereof.
1. Invest in the right tools.
Being part of an in-house team means time is always at a premium, which makes having the right PR tools essential.
Let’s start with media monitoring. If you’re manually searching via Google Alerts or relying on a combination of free tools, it’s time to up your game. Paid media monitoring tools will surface a lot more coverage and will search a broader range of sources than any cluster of free services. There are some major boons to having your monitoring all in one spot (instead of managing multiple accounts) and being confident that you’re getting the full picture of your coverage. Not only will you have an accurate representation of who is talking about your brand and where, if you include your competition and industry in your search parameters, you might be able to identify threats or opportunities well in advance.
Additionally, monitoring tools provide beneficial services that will aid you in other areas of your work—like keeping your C-suite informed or proving the value of your activities. Media briefs, email alerts and reporting functions will help you analyze results and share insights in an easy-to-digest way.
The second tool to invest in is a media database. Make sure you have a database that provides you access to the influencers and journalists that are important to your audience. Given the constantly shifting media landscape, trying to source and maintain your own list of contacts isn’t an efficient use of your resources. An up-to-date list of the right contact details and a reliable method of delivery will make all the difference to your media relations efforts, especially if that media database comes with a built-in outreach function.
Investing in the right tools early on will help you get set up for our next two tips.
2. Have a laser focus on your channels.
Casting your net wide and covering every major social media platform may seem like an optimal way to reach a broader audience, but since every platform favors a certain type of content, you are adding to the burden of your social media manager (if you even have one) with every channel you adopt. It’s far better to do a few well, than to do them all poorly.
By laser focusing your channels and choosing the ones that are most beneficial for your business, you can map out a strategy that will help you achieve long-term success. You’re going to burn out trying to be a master of them all. Where does your audience live? Which platforms do they engage with? What type of content gets them to look and share? Whitepapers don’t do so well on Twitter and snarky comments aren’t a hit on LinkedIn, and is your brand really going to find an audience on TikTok?
Once you choose the platforms you need to be on, learn how to optimize them. Research the functions that will help you streamline your experience—lists, groups, hashtags, posting capabilities. Bring your media monitoring tool into the mix and let the machines sift through the overload of information for relevant hits.
3. Make sure to connect your PR activities to business objectives.
In 2020, PR looked a little expendable. Companies struggling for survival and searching for the easiest and most efficient ways to reduce costs opted to cut their marketing and comms budgets. Many in-house teams, PR agencies and solo practices suffered as a result.
One of the reasons (unfortunately) PR is in this precarious position is our historical inability to connect our PR activities with the larger business goals of our brand in a measurable, understandable way.
This is partially due to a long-standing relationship with advertising value equivalencies (AVEs), which in today’s data-driven business environment, no longer flies. PR pros need to be masters at connecting the outcomes of their activities with business goals, and the key to doing so is impact.
We define impact as having a desired effect on a desired outcome. Impact can be direct or indirect, although PR efforts largely fall under indirect impact, where the activity has an implied business outcome. This is because most of the time you can’t draw a straight line from the efforts of your PR activities to sales.
PR activities largely affect awareness about, engagement with, and the reputation of a brand. All three of those indirectly impact the brand’s goals (usually increased revenue). PR doesn’t have a measurement problem—there are lots of ways of measuring PR: impressions, likes, clicks, mentions, web traffic. However, taken in isolation and presented as the sum of all your efforts, these are nothing more than vanity metrics.
Connecting them to awareness, engagement and reputation is the key to convincing your C-suite that you’re worth investing in.
A lot of it has to do with the language you’re using. If you’re stopping at the number of mentions, then you’ll probably receive a lot of blank looks. If you’re going on to say that of the mentions you received, 88% of them were positive, which is 20% more than last month, you can show that your efforts have been paying off in the reputation department.
Every company cares about the all-important sales funnel, so link your PR efforts to that journey. At the top is awareness—the more people that know about whatever it is you do or provide, the more people you can sell to. Move down the funnel and engagement becomes important. The people made aware are now the people engaging with your website, your offerings, asking for demos, responding to sales emails and signing up for newsletters. They’re creating a relationship with you. When there’s a relationship, there’s a willingness to go a step farther.
And then of course, there’s the omnipresent reputation. A few years ago, an Ipsos survey found that 86% of global respondents consider a company’s reputation when purchasing a product or service.
A media monitoring tool with a reporting function becomes even more essential to proving impact, since the insights you gain from monitoring your coverage plays a key role in proving awareness, engagement and reputation.
By starting with the right tools, focusing your channels, and connecting to business objectives, you’re giving yourself and your team a solid foundation for being more than a “side department”—but being an integral and essential part of business growth.
Joy Knowles is a marketing content strategist for Agility PR Solutions.