Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday’s PR Lesson: Flood Your Clients with Facts and Figures

I love it when a progression of news stories works out like this... Yesterday, I posted a blog about how PR companies can learn to speak the economic and business language of their clients, adding to their marketing skill sets. My advice boiled down to this: become your enemy. Or, in Star Wars geek-speak, PR execs must learn to use “the force” to understand the mindset of their number-crunching counterparts, essentially getting inside their heads.

I also suggested the recruitment of business-background employees, expanded roles for in-house accounting departments and the taking of free online economic courses which have gained not only popularity of late but also legitimacy as quality teaching vehicles.

But there are other ways to demonstrate PR’s worth. It’s time for a little bragging so get out your batons.

Today, while traditional newsrooms have atrophied, PR has helped blur the lines between paid media, earned media and owned media. According to the latest estimates, the ratio of public relations professionals to journalists has increased from 1.2:1 (in the 1980s) to upward of 4:1 in 2010. Meanwhile, The Holmes Report, which ranks PR firms, estimates global PR revenues at $10 billion per year and Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a media investment group, predicted US PR spending would rise 8.3% in 2012 to $4.2 billion. Between 1997 and 2007 average agency salaries went from $38,735 to $50,499. Clearly we’re doing something right.

Then there’s recent acquisitions news with AdAge reporting that PR buys are “red hot” this year.  While AdAge was quick to point out that some of the recent buying frenzy was spurred by expected tax code changes, it reaffirmed that much of the interest lay in advertisers and marketers realizing the value of what PR companies bring to the table.

Phil Palazzo, founder and president of mergers-and-acquisitions consulting firm Palazzo Investment Bankers sized contemporary PR up like this: “PR agencies have become very adept at delivering strategic and targeted solutions over multiple channels – varying from experiential to crisis to social media to events – and for that reason they've been capturing a growing share of marketing dollars." 

Go us!

Of course, industry snapshots, in isolation, do little to convince a potential client of your agency’s worth. But whether it’s drafting that initial proposal, the weekly phone call, or the periodic visit to client headquarters, infusing your written and spoken narrative with these industry facts, can’t be a bad thing. There is a reason why pack mentality works. If everyone is choosing PR firms, why aren’t you, goes the implied subtext. The next step is placing what your individual firm does in the context of this macro-industry data.

It may astound some clients, but PR communications have been around since the days of classical antiquity. And if you go back further, information management and agenda-focused storytelling have been central to businesses for as long as business has existed.

So, the next time you find yourself on that unpleasant client call (admit it, they do happen) take some inspiration from this blog and flood ‘em with facts and figures, remind your clients that PR’s worth is often a lot more than what industry metrics state and prove to them why their business cannot live without yours.

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