Without doubt, there’s one really effective way to get approval and increased budgets for PR campaigns: demonstrate to the chief executive and other C-suite executives how the PR activities positively impact the organization’s overall goals.
Advanced media monitoring and PR measurement tools can gather multiple data points and automatically organize information into charts and graphs to illustrate the effectiveness of PR campaigns. But that’s no longer enough. To convince company leaders to approve proposals and funding requests, PR executives must deliver compelling presentations that explain what the PR data mean to the organization’s overall success. Many PR pros stumble when they make presentations to C-suite executives. Giving presentations to top executives can be intimidating. The executives have high expectations and standards for executive presentations by divisions and departments — and they rigorously enforce time limits.
These tips from executive coaches and PR veterans can help PR presenters wow the C-suite and win their approval.
Explain the problem. You may have great idea, but top executives and especially CEOs are swamped by ideas – many of them quite good. They’re too busy for ideas that don’t solve problems. Spend the first quarter of your allotted time explaining the problem and the next quarter on the idea that addresses the problem, recommends CEO coach Sabina Nawaz in the Harvard Business Journal. The more urgent the problem appears, the more eager your audience will be for the solution.
Leave time for interaction. Presenters often waste precious time by rehashing what the audience already knowns, over-explaining obvious facts, or covering unnecessary details. That mistake crowds out important time for questions and answers. Reserve the second half of your allotted time for questions, Nawaz advises. That may seem like a large chunk of time, but it could be the most valuable. Many people think no questions means success. Wrong. Questions signal interest in the proposal. The more, the better.
Get the numbers right. One incorrect number and executives may automatically question the rest of your data. Be sure of your facts and know the source of your information. If there’s an error, quickly follow up with a correction. If you don’t know an answer, admit it without wasting time, and say you’ll follow up.
Recruit participation. Plan an answer to the question: “What do you need from me?” or “How can I help?” If you merely stammer, “ummm … nothing,” you’ll leave the decision-makers perplexed over your goals and their roles. Presenters often focus on convincing others their ideas are brilliant and winning budget approvals. They forget to solicit participation from others. “Ultimately, people want to be connected to the success of the company, and your success hinges on getting others involved,” says executive coach Jeevan Balani in Forbes.
Watch your jargon. PR and marketing pros often speak in their own jargon, throwing out words like “brand position” and “awareness.” That’s fine for talking with peers, but when presenting to C-suite executives adopt the language they know and care about.
“Nobody in the C-suite gets excited about programmatic, brand positioning or click rates. But when you talk revenue, costs, profit or impact on society, the eyes are on you,” writes Marketing Week columnist Thomas Barta.
Avoid data overload. “Too many times I’ve seen young account executives throw all their data on one slide (perhaps not even visualized just as a list of numbers) because they feel a need to get everything across up front and more data must be good, because it looks more official, right? Wrong,” writes Adam Singer in a Search Engine Watch article. Too much data overwhelms and confuses the audience. First, decide what point you want to get across. Present one chart and one clear conclusion per slide.
Simplify the data. Trying to become too fancy can confuse viewers. Present data as simply and cleanly as possible. For instance, to compare changes over time, simply plot the data in a line graph. Avoid 3D bars, which are confusing. Label all chart elements. Be sure to clearly title the chart, label each axis and appropriately label each trend line or other chart element. The latest software for presentations and PR measurement enables pop-up labeling of chart elements.
Make one core recommendation. One well-conceived recommendation resonates better than a multilayered proposal and is more likely to be approved. Leave details about tactical implementation for Q&A. You may want to have some slides in reserve to answer questions about implementation. Before the meeting ends, confirm the meeting decision and next steps. If you’ve received approval of the core proposal, insulate C-level decision-makers from nitty-gritty implementation, unless they specifically request to be included in tactical decision-making. Provide the executives with regular updates on progress of the approved activity.
Bottom Line: Public relations professionals need to deliver stellar presentations to win over C-suite executives. Media monitoring and measurement tools can gather and organize the necessary data, but PR pros need to explain the data in face-to-face presentations to convince top executives to approve their proposals.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.