4 steps for PR pros to gain credibility among top-tier execs

Want a prominent seat in the meeting room? Figure out the nomenclature, and collaborate with the bean counters on identifying and tracking which metrics matter most to them.

Proving PR’s financial impact is one thing; communicating it effectively is another. 

Often, PR metrics differ significantly from the metrics that CEOs and their peers care about. Reporting on media coverage means nothing to a team focusing on financial and strategic growth. 

This is a catch-22; reporting on the wrong things has resulted in PR losing its voice with top-tier execs. Now that teams have the tools to evaluate PR’s impact on business objectives, the people who need to hear this have stopped listening. 

So, how do you break through and gain a voice with the folks in the corner offices?

  • Discover what metrics are important to all stakeholders.

Identify what senior leaders care about. Engage them in developing a communications strategy by running a metrics workshop. This will get them invested and focused on what you can and can’t do with PR, and it will unite everyone around common goals.

Challenge anyone who proposes a metric to consider what data they would like to see as evidence. This will focus everyone on available systems and data, and how they should be integrated to get significant insights. Any metric you can’t support with data should be tabled.

Document all the agreed-upon metrics, along with the required data sources, and have all stakeholders approve them. Creating a reporting methodology is an iterative process, so expect the reported data to change the first few times you present them. As questions arise, you will find new insights in the answers. After the third time, agree that no additional metrics or reports are to be developed. Otherwise, it will continually change and you won’t have benchmarks and consistent data sets to compare over time.

  • Adopt executives’ language.

Frame your conversations around business impact and financial value. If you’re speaking the same language as the top bosses, they’ll become more comfortable both with you and the results you present. By adopting a data-led approach, you will naturally transition away from talking in the abstract to speaking a language they understand and value: one of financial impact.

  • Make friends with data gateholders.

Accurate reporting requires accurate data. It is essential that you gain access to all the required data sources to prove financial impact. Be the leader in breaking down the information silos in your company; by bringing them together, you will get more powerful insights and reports. This will also enable you to evaluate effectiveness of PR as part of the whole marketing mix. 

  • Perfect your reports.

Develop different reports for each set of stakeholders. Top execs will want to see only high-level data: how you are positioned versus competitors, how your share of voice has changed over time, and how a key strategic message has resonated. Don’t give them all the data; a simple executive summary on one slide is enough.

Laura Browne is chief effectiveness officer at Covalent Bonds.


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