by Kathy Mattson Zoeller
Executing an excellent public relations (PR) program is an important way to reach customers in a timely and relatively inexpensive fashion. Since customers are the foundation of all cash flow, successfully aligning a strategic PR program with your company’s overall marketing and sales program is critical.
When hiring a PR team leader or searching for the best PR counsel, two fundamental skills should be in place to sustain your program. Obviously, the practitioners need to be creative and capable of building a strategic program that drives top-line sales, but they also need to be genuinely interested in the impact PR expenditures have on your company’s bottom-line. Seeking PR counsel with real world business experience who have quantitative and analytical skills necessary to drive PR productivity is a must. Any PR counsel worth your time and the company’s money must be willing to be held accountable for performance.
Following are some practical steps you can take to measure the success of your PR program:
It is fundamental to your PR strategy to decide which audiences you want to focus on and which you don’t. If there are specific customer audiences which are highly engaged, tend to regularly buy from you and do so with little handholding then it may be best to focus more of your PR dollars here. When FP Mailing Solutions, a postage meter manufacturer and direct competitor of Pitney Bowes, initiated a rebranding campaign to expand marketshare, it integrated the brand strategy into its PR, direct marketing and dealer sales channels. PR counsel worked with the company’s CEO and marketing director to target industries where small to mid-sized buyers were likely to upgrade to digital postage meters and make additional mail center product purchases. Over a three-year period, the PR program promoted the company’s new brand messages, latest digital meter products and management’s industry vision. PR counsel focused on the leading vertical trade publications in FP Mailing Solutions target industries, as well as small business editors in leading daily newspapers and select national business magazines. The results – the company solidified brand awareness and captured marketshare points.
To effectively promote your company’s products, you will have to invest in public relations. Before you initiate a new PR program, gather up data on past PR expenditures aligned with a product’s sale figures. For example, study the sales results of the last new product your company promoted and launched at a trade show. The new business personnel who manned the trade show booth should be able to quickly generate the sales data for those customers who registered in the show booth and then purchased the promoted product. Pick only those new products where you spent PR dollars. You may have spent dollars on developing press kit materials for the show, such as a product launch release, case study or related technology byline article. If you devoted PR dollars to pitching the product to the press in advance of the trade show, collect and review all of the articles that appeared in print following the show. This sales and article placement data will give you a better understanding of those products which do and don’t deserve more PR program dollars.
Even when you know your target audiences, it is often a complex task to decide which media outlets to focus on. Digital, print and broadcast media all compete to grab your customers’ attention. When conducting a business-to-business PR program, it is important to optimize the allocation of your PR dollars so that you are targeting the medium that grabs readership among your core audience of decision makers.
Measure What’s Important
It is critical that the PR program delivers on some established metrics that are specific to your company. You need to have assurance that PR dollars are spent in a way that will achieve the company’s business goals. For example:
- Ask your PR counsel to keep you informed of the number of article and product news briefs placed in publications with the greatest reach to your core audiences.
- Make sure your customer relationship management team charged with taking incoming sales calls asks how the customer heard about the product and your company. If the caller indicates a trade magazine or business publication article, make sure that information is shared with your PR counsel.
- Well written byline articles, case studies and feature articles placed in your target media outlets are also an indication that the PR effort is paying off.
Your PR counsel needs to be attuned to your productivity improvement and return on investment needs. Therefore, companies today need versatile PR practitioners who offer both creative flair and financial discipline.
A 16-year veteran of financial services, healthcare and high-tech corporate communications, Kathy Mattson Zoeller is President of Mattson Communications, Inc., (www.mattsonpr.com) a business-to-business corporate communications and financial PR firm. Mattson Communications is known for its strategic assessment of a client’s PR needs and for executing communication programs that generate superior results. She can be reached at 312-988-9352 or firstname.lastname@example.org