When it comes to seeing demonstrable results from your PR activity, there’s no doubt that ‘what success looks like’ will depend on who you speak to. For some, social media numbers are a key metric, while others value circulation figures. There are even still a few who turn to the historical AVE figures (Advertising Value Equivalent).
And this variation is likely to differ across your agency dependent on their job role. A financial director will be more impressed by the direct impact on bottom line figures (or new client wins), whereas your firm’s spokesperson may be focused on coverage numbers. The business development team may prefer to look at engagement levels while consultants assess Facebook follower numbers.
Whatever your view, given the importance of PR and marketing in providing an agency with a competitive advantage, it’s crucial that you know you’re truly getting your money’s worth. So how can you ensure you’re getting real return on your investment? Here’s a few pointers:
Knowing exactly what your objectives are might sound like a simple and arguably obvious step. However, you would be surprised how often we hear of agencies that have undertaken a PR campaign that they claim hasn’t achieved the results they wanted. But when you ask what their objectives were, they either had nothing specific defined or (and this is by far my favorite response) the intention was to ‘do more PR’.
Setting objectives from the beginning that everyone involved in the PR or marketing plan is fully behind will make success much easier in the long run. These don’t have to be highly detailed or over-ambitious targets, though. Simply agreeing that you want to attract more candidates or engage with more potential clients in a specified niche will steer your activity in the right direction.
Once you’ve defined what it is you’re aiming to achieve, it’s vital that you set a plan of action that outlines what media outlets and online channels you will target and what the key messages will be. In order to really see valuable results, it’s important to be picky about which channels you’re targeting. Getting your brand in the FT is great (but hard work, trust me!), but are you truly getting value for your time investment? If you are looking to raise your profile among construction hiring managers, for example, would a detailed feature in a leading industry magazine reach more of your target audience than a small comment in a national newspaper? Most likely.
It’s also advisable that you are just as particular about what message you’re disseminating through each channel. Sharing the same thing across multiple channels will not only give you less results than a targeted approach, but could also lead to potential clients or candidates becoming disengaged with your brand because content is being pushed in their direction that is completely irrelevant (just look at the number of people complaining of impersonalised LinkedIn approaches, for example.)
It might be that your LinkedIn company page is your BD platform. It could be that your Facebook page is your employer of choice platform. It could be that Twitter is where you engage with communities through hashtags. As such, each will require a different approach.
Once you have a concrete plan in place, you need to know it’s working. Agreeing what metrics will deliver meaningful insight into the success of your campaign will not only help demonstrate the ROI of your activity, but will also help steer any changes to your PR along the way.
Which metrics should be used needs to be directly linked to your objectives. If, for example, your aim is to increase brand awareness in a new specialism, then measuring the coverage reach in sector-specific media or niche blog engagement levels will provide greater insight into how well-received your message is.
It’s important, however, to move away from a heavy reliance on vanity metrics, particularly with your social media channels. Having a large following on Twitter may be great, but are these followers the right people, or are they bots?
You may feel that once you have a PR strategy in place and you’re seeing the impactful results you were aiming for, that the planning ends there. Sorry to burst the bubble, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. It’s no secret that the world of recruitment is changing constantly. In this environment, the initial objectives and targets that you agreed could alter as a result of new organisational objectives or wider market forces that are out of your control.
It could also be the case that as you’re evaluating the success of your campaign you identify a channel, message or approach that simply isn’t achieving the results you’d hoped. It’s important in such instances not to try fighting against the tide – if it’s not working, fix it. Changing tact or scrapping a strategy all together is a much better approach than pushing ahead with something that clearly isn’t working. So, if you want to see consistent ROI on your PR or marketing activity, it’s crucial that you’re constantly reviewing plans in line with the evolution of your firm and the market it services.
Ensuring you get ROI from your PR and marketing is no easy task, but it is achievable with the right structure and processes in place.