‘A Call for Accountability’ in a Competitive PR Market

The role of PR has expanded over the years. The means for measurement and data analysis, though still a work in progress, have improved. Companies depend increasingly on public relations activities for building their businesses. As a result, PR has a greater responsibility to be accountable in ways that speak to a business’ bottom line.

In today’s guest post, Matt Rizzetta, CEO of the North 6th Agencyissues his “call to action” based on the role that PR is playing in the modern marcomms landscape. It’s a landscape filled with options for businesses. So, Rizzetta says, showing your value is a mandate. What do you think? Click through to read on.

A Call for Accountability: The “New” PR and the Metrics That Matter by Matt Rizzetta, CEO, North 6th Agency

To say PR isn’t what it used to be would be a colossal understatement. There was a time when companies threw money at PR with the intention of building their brands and any media coverage they picked up along the way would be gravy. Expectations were vague. The benchmarks for success were arbitrary.  And “PR for the sake of PR” was enough of a rationale to write fat retainer checks month after month.  Those days are over.

Today, clients are demanding greater accountability from their agencies, and just a quick glance at the surroundings will prove they have good reason — challenging environment, fierce competition, and an online media landscape that makes measurement easier than in the past.

The clients who write those retainer checks are finally demanding that we do what we’re paid to do which is help them grow their businesses. Now, there’s a new set of rules.

As this change is being ushered in, my advice to agency executives is simple: embrace this new reality, don’t hide from it. Instill this spirit in the mind of every entry-level staff member you interview and inject it into the DNA of every account manager who converses with a client. As carriers of the torch, our obligation is to weed out those who shy away from accountability and reward those who embrace it.

More companies are treating PR as part of their sales strategy.  Media impressions are great, but the conversation is shifting to how those impressions are impacting the client’s business goals. When PR doesn’t correlate to the business goal of the client — whether it’s more sales leads, more users, more site traffic, increased following on social media pages, or whatever the core metric might be — it’s simply not doing its job.  Metric-driven objectives allow companies to set quotas and monitor the efficacy of their PR strategy in real-time.

We need to establish ourselves as true business partners, actively engaged in the day-to-day success of our clients.  Reports should reflect our understanding of each client’s goals and objectives.  For years, PR execs got away with shoveling nonsense and hiding behind reports that didn’t say much of anything.

Once upon a time, I worked for an agency that serviced a major national account.  After a massive PR event, we collected every piece of media coverage we garnered, put those clips in a binder and assigned an ad equivalency value for every placement. We simply wanted to show the client how much value they were getting from the campaign.  The math worked out to be something to the tune of $15 billion.

Consider the absurdity.  Billions of dollars in coverage for a client whose top-line revenue wasn’t even half of that?  Sure, the exposure was nice.  But we gave very little thought to true dollars and “sense.”  How did the event impact our client’s business?  Today, that question would be the first one we are compelled to answer.

The industry has reached its saturation point.  More agencies are competing for fewer opportunities and clients are placing a premium on the ones who can get them the results they need.  Here’s my call to action: agencies need to work harder than they ever have before, take on a higher level of accountability, and deliver tangible results that actually make a difference to our clients.  We owe them nothing less.  Embrace this reality and you will reap the benefits. Ignore this reality and get ready for a career change.