Is PR relevant in a social media world?

Regular readers of the ‘slice know that I frequently rant about the need for marketers to be more accountable.  Given the challenge of measuring the direct impact of PR, I could take the easy position that you should kill your PR program because you can’t measure it.  In the past year,  however, I’ve entered this debate in the unusual position of a defender of PR as a growth driver.  My experience in turning PR on and off in companies has shown me the lift (and drop) that comes from a well crafted program.

What?  Mr. Tangyslice is going to recommend investing in a program with limited direct measurement?   The answer is yes and here is my logic.

  • Old media is not dead (yet). I know that the prognosis isn’t great for old media but the national TV nightly news still has millions of viewers and depending on your product or service, you may need all of those eyeballs.
  • Traditional press still has online outlets to syndicate your content.
  • PR is about telling your story.  Without editorial outreach you are missing a powerful way to get a third party to validate your message.
  • It isn’t just about traditional media.  Social media is an important part of any integrated PR plan.
  • Content is still king. A well formulated PR plan will generate fresh content for  all of your channels.  I know this is a very “push” view of the world, but sharing is one part of joining the social media discussions and there just isn’t that much new content out there these days.
  • There are still many opinion makers in “old media”. Have you checked out the number of followers the “old media” reporters and news anchors have on Twitter?
  • They still writing about you. Whether you formally participate or not, the press is still writing or talking about your space.  It is pretty much always better to be involved.
  • If you have news.  If you have a new product or service, PR and word of mouth remain really powerful and leveraged ways to get the word out.
  • PR is cost effective.  On a pure cost per impression basis, PR can be a really cheap way to get your message out.  The bigger question is whether or not you reach the right people with you message.

So how do you avoid falling into the accountability trap?

In a perfect world, we would all have spare budget to measure awareness before and after our campaigns.  Absent that, you can start with clear and measurable goals.  You probably have a sense of your baseline sales,  traffic and lead flow and can look at your lift from those levels.   Your referrer logs can tell you alot about your traffic sources.  And finally, look for those rare times when you get a big press hit and nothing else is going on.

OK, this is your chance to blast me.  Take your best shot.  Mr Accountable Marketing has let his guard down.  Anyone want to take the other side of this argument?

Author: Frank Days

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5 Comments

  1. Needless to say, I couldn’t agree more. The point I come back to is this: “It isn’t just about traditional media. Social media is an important part of any integrated PR plan.” Bingo.

    Public relations is about communicating with audiences. That has will always be important. What has changed are the channels available to do that: print, broadcast and radio in the old days along with social networks, Twitter, blogs, podcasts and others today.

  2. Great point Jon. PR and social media shouldn’t be trying to cut each other down. In fact both can be beneficial for the other.

    What I would advocate is a reassessment of your demo, are your clients reading print anymore? Can you measure the success of a bill board? In today’s accountability/roi environment it doesn’t hurt to reassess your channels. Sometimes Print wins, sometimes social media does. It’s all a matter of having a flexible approach and a variety of channels through which to operate.

  3. Well, you’re asking for it, so here it is… You present a good list of reasons why PR still matters or why it’s good – and I agree with most of them – but you’ve got bupkes on accountability for your PR program. Watching your main metrics and seeing if they respond to PR bumps is ok, but if you’ve got active marketing programs going on, I doubt that you’ll be able to parse signal from noise unless you hit the WSJ.

    I grant that you probably can’t show ROI on PR, but that doesn’t mean you just throw up your hands and say, hey, the CPM is cheap. What about setting up some metrics and goals for your PR program? Perhaps a PR dashboard of raw coverage (impressions, a bogus figure), mentions in targeted media (print, online, blogs, twitter, etc), and some related figure like inbound links? Otherwise how do you know when to fire your PR agency?

    You can’t be the accountability guy and make exceptions. No babka for you this time.

  4. PR still matters
    it is hard to measure now
    but can really help

  5. I appreciate your candid response. More seriously, there has got to be signs of life from your PR program otherwise it is a waste of time and budget. It seems like awareness and trust builders like PR are the most difficult things to measure for direct results. Clear intermediary metrics are typically the best you can do. Depending on the company, however, you can often see the lift from significant press hits.

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