The Value of Public Relations

Recently a colleague expressed doubt about the relevancy of public relations in today’s marketing communications world because “PR does not produce leads.”   As evidence, he cited the fact that traditional metric for PR is typically the number of placements, or “hits,” experienced for a specific item and the number of potential impressions each “hit” represents.  “But, at the end of the day,” he says,” “there is nothing to turn over to the sales force… so what good is a hit?”

So, I have to respond.  Nevermind that I have been part of PR programs that have played a significant and highly successful role in the marcom mix – in one instance helping to secure a European forklift company’s reputation as a technology leader and a formidable new competitor in the U.S. market.  Even without the benefit of my first-hand experience (and admitted bias), there are a few “truths” that make PR an important tool in the marcom arsenal.

First, in the realm of paid communication, PR is said to offer more credibility than most other forms of communication. That is, an editorial item about your company’s product or your expertise placed in a key industry publication or website is said to be trusted more by the reader than an advertisement which touts similar information.  While this makes sense intuitively, it can also be said that the media coverage experienced through PR is likely to be more extensive and provide far greater reach than an advertising program with a similar budget.  For instance, we helped one of our clients advance their thought leadership in the industrial networking realm by securing nine feature articles on their key topic in the industry’s top media… and all within the space of one year.  In effect, the company now “owns” this subject matter and many editors now call us when the topic is scheduled to be covered.  Advertising in all nine publications would have been cost prohibitive. 

Public Relations also provides SEO value.  That is, you can measure the links from your press release back to your website. And, most stories that appear online typically provide links back to the company’s website.  Again, measurable.  You can even create a landing page for each release or article offering the user more extensive information on the topic-at-hand…capturing a lead at the same time. 

As for the sales force, even if they are not getting a lead per se, I have been at sales meetings where they tell of using editorial content to help them open the door to a new customer…and to help them win the sale.  Not to mention a whole host of PR-related content, i.e., case studies, white papers, e-books and the like which they view as instrumental to the sale.

Does that help you define the value of PR?  Let me know your thoughts.



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