Report: Measuring PR’s value remains communicators’ top challenge

A Muck Rack survey reveals that media relations savvy remains the most powerful skill in PR pros’ toolkit, but proving value to executives remains a struggle.

PR pros are crucial to their organizations’ success, but most struggle to prove it through numbers or tie it to business results.

Muck Rack’s “The State of PR 2019” report revealed that measurement remains PR pros’ biggest challenge with 72% saying they struggle to measure the business impact their efforts produce and 65% saying they lack quantifiable metrics for their campaigns.

Along with measurement, nearly two-thirds of PR pros (61%) grapple with finding and engaging relevant journalists, and the same amount feel pressured by shrinking budgets. Roughly half of PR pros struggle with properly tracking media coverage and mentions (50%), recruiting top talent (47%) and collaborating with both their teams and other departments in their organizations (44%).

Though PR pros are struggling to measure the value of their work, the majority (88%) use traditional metrics to evaluate their campaigns.

Most PR pros also use social media impact (80%) and affect on website traffic (67%) to measure their value. Less than half (45%) use brand metrics and only 29% measure the value of their efforts through the effect they have on sales.

Tools of the trade

Another element eroding PR pros’ value is wasted time.

Muck Rack reported that most PR pros use productivity tools to increase efficiency on time spent with emails (98%) and documents (87%), with another 58% using productivity tools to maximize spreadsheet efficacy.

Many PR pros also report spending a lot pf time mastering media and journalist databases (69%) and news monitoring software (53%). Others tap into newswire services, internal messaging platforms (such as Slack), product management tools (such as Trello) and design resources (such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator) to increase productivity.

However, only 10% of PR pros use a customer relationship management software, in comparison to nearly 60% of PR teams who use spreadsheets daily (most often to tap into static media lists). The time spent on manual data entry can quickly add up.

Though nearly half of PR teams in organizations where PR is combined with other functions spend 30 minutes or less on manual data entry, roughly a quarter of in-house PR teams or those with in-house and agency teams spend one or two hours a week on data entry. A reported 24% of agency teams spend more than two hours on entering data.

These hours mean PR pros spend weeks each year managing data, instead of working on tactics that more directly affect an organization’s bottom line.

Providing value through media relations

Seventy-seven percent say media coverage and relationships with journalists remain a crucial element for PR pros to both prove and increase their value to stakeholders, and 68% say measurable results help them increase their value. PR pros put less emphasis on internal communication efforts (33%), the ability to collaborate with teams (28%) and technology (23%).

Nearly all PR pros (97%) use email to reach journalists. Considering that Muck Rack’s annual survey of journalists reported that 93% of journalists want to be pitched via email, that’s a good sign. However, journalists only want to receive relevant emails, so the 21% of PR pros using mass email to reach reporters aren’t doing themselves (or the industry) any favors.

Though far less popular than emails, 41% of PR pros use phone calls to reach journalists. Some 29% use Twitter, 11% use newswire services and 10% use LinkedIn. In comparison, only 2% of journalists like to be pitched through phone calls, with the same amount preferring pitches via Twitter.

PR pros believe that personalization (43%) and relevancy (34%) remain crucial to a pitch resonating with the intended reporter, with 13% saying timeliness matters. Similarly, journalists say a lack of personalization remains the No. 1 reason they reject pitches.

Though most PR pros don’t use newswires to pitch journalists, nearly half (49%) of communications agencies and 35% of organizations occasionally use newswires to distribute press releases, and 15% of organizations (along with 12% of agencies) use them heavily.

Newswires might not increase pitching success, but 61% of in-house PR pros (and 51% of agency PR pros) say they generate media coverage, with roughly half of communicators saying they please members of management (50% in-house, 42% agency) and help SEO efforts (45% in-house, 53% agency).

PR pros and social media

A whopping 93% of PR pros follow journalists on social media, and 71% either frequently or “sometimes” follow reporters before they pitch them. Twitter remains the most popular social media platform (91%) for following journalists, which aligns to Muck Rack’s journalist survey that revealed 70% of reporters consider Twitter the most valuable online platform. For PR pros, LinkedIn (37%) and Instagram (26%) come in next, but at much lower usages.

However, PR pros use social media platforms much more when it comes to their organizations’ social media campaigns. Seventy-one percent use Twitter and roughly half use LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.

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