Let’s start with the depressing news. In many organizations, PR takes a back seat to marketing. How do we know?
- Companies in the US spend approximately $150 billion each year on advertising. They spend only about $5 billion on PR. (Sources: eMarketer and PRSA)
- Advertising pros make up to 75% more than their PR counterparts (Source: PayScale)
- Almost all MBA programs offer courses in advertising, but only 20% offer a course in PR (Source: Associated Press)
Sigh. Marketing is stealing the spotlight. But, we have good news. The executive preference for marketing and advertising over PR is driven by several persistent beliefs that are no longer accurate. Let’s have a look at a few.
You Can’t Measure PR – It absolutely used to be the case that it was very difficult to measure the impact of PR on business goals like revenue and profitability. PR pros did stuff and then hoped for the best or relied on anecdotal evidence that their work was paying off. The internet almost completely took this ambiguity out of marketing by making it possible to track a buyer from the first interaction with an ad all the way through to the sale. It was only logical that executives would be inclined to invest in what they could measure.
The good news is that today’s technology makes it possible to measure the impact of PR on business goals like website visits, leads, social engagement and, ultimately, revenue. It no longer needs to be a choice between a highly trackable approach and a black hole.
You Can’t Scale PR – If you have an ad or a marketing campaign that is working, it is fairly easy to get more out of it by spending more money. You just increase the spend until you experience diminishing returns. Executives love that. PR doesn’t exactly work that way, so many considered it to be a function that didn’t scale. That was largely true when the main work of PR pros was pitching to journalists. The audience of people who could supply earned media was small, so doubling down on PR resources just didn’t make much sense.
Ah, how things change. The rise of social media has turned this thinking on its head. Now huge audiences that can share and amplify brand messages are available. One earned media mention can be liked and shared thousands of times. PR teams drive this engagement and with a smart influencer strategy, reach is virtually unlimited.
Journalists Hate PR People – Well, we have to take some responsibility for this one. The advent of email made it all too easy to spam the heck out of anyone who had ever written an article about anything. For years journalists were flooded with irrelevant, useless press releases and pitches. If they developed a distaste for PR pros, we shouldn’t be surprised.
This problem has also largely been addressed by technology. We now have the capability of crafting very targeted, relevant pitches for the specific journalists who are likely to be interested in particular stories or news. Effective media monitoring helps us hone our messages and approach so that we become helpful to our media contacts, rather than being a nuisance.
John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” The internet went a long way to solving that trouble for advertising. It, along with modern PR monitoring, measurement and reporting software, is now solving it for PR as well.