Awareness. We sell it. Clients want it. Executives crave it. And it makes the PR world go round and round.
But awareness for the sake of awareness has never been enough—and it never will be.
Yes, brand awareness is valuable. But we can do so much more, which requires us to think beyond traditional PR metrics. Ask yourself: What’s the single most important business objective you are trying to drive through media relations right now? If the answer has anything to do with visibility, website traffic, competitive share of voice, message penetration, etc., you’re not thinking big enough.
Those metrics are important but limiting.
Media relations—and PR in general—is a means, not the end. Extracting the full value of PR requires us to intentionally align our strategies with something bigger. Think market share, lead generation, sales enablement, competitive displacement, funding, M&A and talent. If your PR strategy is not working at this level, you are likely leaving value on the table.
Media coverage is getting harder to come by. There are fewer reporters, more PR teams and a nonstop news cycle. The opportunities we secure are precious, and we need to ensure they hit the right mark.
Start by aligning with your leadership team. Ask executives for their top two to three business goals over the next 12 months, and don’t accept anything related to marketing. Then, work backward.
For example, if the number one goal is generating more revenue, work with the head of sales to deconstruct exactly what the company needs to increase leads, improve pipeline rates and reduce sales friction. You will likely find that mentions, volume and overall coverage is a distant second in importance to securing persona-driven PR stories that hit on the emotional pain points of your prospects. Another example: If your company is trying to land its next round of capital, work with the CFO to align on what makes the company most attractive to investors. Is it the customer base, the technology, data or something else?
Once you have your goals, develop your PR strategy accordingly. As we all know, different PR tactics beget different results. The approach to close more deals is drastically different than the strategy to acquire more talent or secure venture capital. Sure, your clients and bosses want it all. But if you pressed them, I’m sure they’d all agree that less is more, as long as it’s driving what’s most important.
Finally, celebrate your wins.
I was recently walking a prospect through one of our case studies. Two of the success points we noted were a $200M-plus client funding round and the creation of a new market. The prospect scoffed at the notion that PR had anything to do with the wins and thought it was ridiculous for us to include them in the case study. My response: We started working with the company when they were a tiny startup with a marketing team of one. Their goals were clear: category creation, market expansion and scale. Now, they are the number one player in a rapidly expanding global market.
Was PR solely responsible for the momentum? Not in a million years. Did it help drive the success? Absolutely. And that’s because we aligned upfront with what the client actually wanted. To us, celebrating their success—funding, market dominance, and expansion—made more sense than highlighting the tactics that helped get them there.
The prospect’s eyes were opened. They are now a customer.