Is PR Overrated? Marketers Don’t Think So.

October 22, 2015 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer


Each year for the past 7 years, Hubspot has released a comprehensive study on the state of inbound marketing. This year’s report, which was just released, included responses from more than 4,000 marketers in 150 countries. The entire document is well worth the read, but there was one particular question that stood out to us.

What’s the Most Overrated Marketing Tactic?

What isn’t surprising is that inbound marketers think the most overrated marketing tactics are paid advertising (print, outdoor, broadcast, social media, online ads, PPC). A whopping 52% of inbound marketers put those tactics at the top of the overrated heap. What is really surprising is that 44% of outbound marketers agree. Overrated is not the same as useless, but it is revealing that so many people put what they do in that bucket. It’s a reflection of how much our industry has changed.

They Like Us, They Really Like Us

The other result that we found surprising is that only 8% of all marketers ranked public relations as the most overrated tactic. Given the tension that often occurs between marketing and PR teams (especially during budget time) we expected that number to be much higher. This is the first time Hubspot has asked the question, so we can’t compare this year’s result to the past, but we suspect that PR’s reputation has improved with marketers over the past few years. Why? Data.

In the past it was very difficult to measure the value of PR against hard objectives like website traffic, leads and revenue. Everyone sort of agreed that PR was “good” and that earned media was desirable, but we relied on soft justifications for the investment in PR or invented flawed metrics like Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). It’s no wonder that marketers and others were doubtful.

But PR has recently been through a transition, similar to the one that marketing began in the early 2000’s. We now have technology that makes it possible to track each PR investment, asset or earned media mention and tie them directly to the bottom line. We can objectively measure the impact that PR efforts have on brand value, reach and engagement. Not only can we measure what we’ve done, but we can now also make data-driven decisions about what to do next. Like our friends in marketing, we can now rely on the numbers, rather than gut feel when assessing the results of past campaigns and the potential of future ones. It appears that these new measurement capabilities are improving our standing.

The results of Hubspot’s  analysis are encouraging for PR indeed.  For outbound marketers, not so much.


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