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Most executives experience a major disconnect between expectations of PR and its results, new research reveals. Most executives believe PR should be tied to specific business outcomes, but very few see results they expect, according to a survey by North 6th Agency (N6A).

Executives’ evaluation of PR is lackluster. Asked how impactful PR has been in driving desired business outcomes, only 10% rated PR five on a scale of one to five.

What are Your KPIs?

A breakdown in communication, N6A asserts, in the likely culprit: Just 30% of executives believe that PR’s key performance indicators (KPIs) have been clearly articulated to PR teams. Only 22% of executives surveyed outsource all PR work to an external agency; 41% use only internal teams.

Executives know what they want from PR. Most popular PR objectives include raising brand awareness, cited by 82%, followed by driving revenue (70%) and recruiting talent (33%). A smaller number mentioned raising capital and preparing for an exit or IPO.

PR’s inability to deliver strong results frustrates many executives. Anecdotally, executives often complain that PR achieves inconsistent results: Media coverage occurs sporadically. Lack of clear KPIs and lack of communications between executive leaders and PR personnel about those metrics likely causes their frustration.

Top Recommendations for PR

N6A urges business leaders to:

  • Consider goals that go beyond brand awareness, a common traditional goal. For smaller companies in particular, attracting talent, elevating enterprise value and amplifying coverage for potential suitors can provide great value.
  • Define and communicate specific, measurable goals and outcomes for each PR initiative.
  • After establishing specific, measurable KPIs, clearly communicate the KPIs to PR teams. Consider metrics such as site visits, qualified leads, opportunities created, and revenue.
  • Place a greater premium on quality of press coverage rather than quantity. High-quality coverage offers ancillary benefits such as improved sentiment and backlinks that improve SEO.

Overcoming PR Measurement Challenges

Other surveys also show that proving the value of their campaigns is the top challenge for PR.

Almost three-quarters (72%) of PR pros surveyed by Muck Rack rank measuring business impact as their top challenge. In addition, 65% cite lack of quantifiable measurement, and 50% cite tracking media mentions, compiling clips and building coverage reports.

More than two-thirds (68%) said measurable results would show the internal value of PR. That was more than any other action, except for coverage/media relationships, named by 73%.

Almost all PR pros measure their PR in some way. Most PR teams track traditional PR metrics like coverage and audience reach, social media impact and website impact. A little under a third look at sales impact. Tracking sales impact may be much harder to measure for some businesses than others, based on scale, tech stack and type of sales completed, the report notes. Conclusively demonstrating positive effect on lead generation and sales growth are probably the most convincing metrics to prove the value of PR to top executives.

Powerful PR measurement tools are now available that can reveal PR’s contribution to business goals. The best services offer compressive media monitoring, integrated media and business analytics, and customizable features.  The top-end services also include human analysts who can assess media clips for greater accuracy and interpret media results for actionable business insights.

Bottom Line: Business executives understand the potential value of PR. But PR campaigns often disappoint executives when they fall short of expectations, research shows. Companies can close the gap between expectations and results by better defining goals and KPIs and communicating those metrics to PR teams.