Public Relations

How to Demonstrate PR Value to Executives

Reading Time: 7 minutes

PR value comes not only from press hits that are an end result of a successful PR campaign, but also from more intangible benefits that can be hard to measure. A successful PR campaign increases the awareness of a company and, in turn, helps drive inbound sales, reduces the sales cycle, amplifies the results of other marketing channels, and attracts employees and interest from potential investors. 

But because this larger, holistic PR value is difficult to measure, companies tend to find themselves fending off a variety of questions, from what they should expect when hiring a PR agency, what public relations services are included in a typical PR retainer, and how to measure PR value

These questions can be challenging for any company to answer—but especially for those who are looking to build a PR program for the first time. 

We’ve worked with executives within companies ranging from venture backed-startups to Fortune 500 leaders, and have boiled down some of their most common questions about demonstrating PR value into the following guide.

Understand Executive Expectations

No two executives have the same expectations for PR, so demonstrating PR value looks different depending on the company, industry and individual. And even within a single company, one executive’s idea of PR success might be drastically different from another. 

Because of this, it’s important to first identify the specific executive(s) that will be involved in the decision-making process. It’s not uncommon to have one individual involved in initial PR discussions, and then down the road, finding that someone else (usually a C-suite level person) has begun asking questions about specific PR activities. 

Some common executive expectations we’ve seen—which can range from very general to very specific—include:

PR Value

Ensure that you’ve determined who all of the possible stakeholders will be at the very beginning of a PR engagement in order to get a sense for how they define success.

Establish Clear Objectives

Once companies know what an executive expects from PR, they can reverse engineer those expectations into clear PR objectives. 

It’s best to have a conversation about PR expectations with executives before launching into a campaign or an engagement. Then, they can see that their goals have been carefully defined and addressed through specific objectives throughout the plan. 

But even if this doesn’t happen, demonstrating PR value is much easier when a PR plan includes specific, measurable objectives that are laid out within a dedicated time frame.

Examples of Objectives

Depending on an executive’s goals, PR plans might be a direct reflection of their vision, or a variety of objectives that have been refined to meet expectations without overpromising on what PR on its own can accomplish (which, we might add, is what often creates executive-level apprehension about PR).

Here are some examples of how executive goals can be transformed into measurable and achievable PR objectives.

Enhance Brand Reputation

While PR cannot control the way the market talks about a company, it can aim to enhance their reputation by creating a steady stream of positive, or even neutral, press coverage. An example objective for this could be:

PR will generate an X% increase in favorable press coverage of [company] in the next six months.

Companies can also use PR to improve their brand reputation by using it to align with the concepts and terms that they want to be known for in the market. For example:

Every piece of coverage will align our company with terms and phrases such as ‘sustainability’, ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion’. 

Revenue Growth

Setting an objective for a press release to generate 200 sales leads on its own is not a realistic PR objective—even if it’s what an executive wants.

For an executive whose top priority is to generate leads, a more achievable approach would be to create a steady cadence of lead-nurturing content (not limited to press releases) that supports the buyer’s journey, empowering customers with relevant information to make informed decisions.

A company that wants to drive sales of a specific platform it offers, for example, could create a PR objective to distribute bimonthly press releases announcing a new feature, update or capability within the platform, in order to increase awareness of it and facilitate market visibility. 

Expand Market Presence

Executives are often tasked with bringing a company into new geographic markets or industries. PR is a tool that can drive companies’ visibility where they haven’t had it before. 

A company that is entering the U.S., for example, would want to show its executives how it will use PR to generate coverage in American media outlets, and build the executive teams’ relationships with key American journalists. 

Build Thought Leadership

Oftentimes, executives want to be known for both their work within a particular company, as well as how they are driving change within their larger industry. This is where building executive thought leadership becomes a valuable PR objective for executives to be made aware of. 

An example objective for building thought leadership could be as simple as placing monthly bylines under an executive’s name.

Or, if there is a specific media outlet that they would like to be recognized in, contributing an article to that publication could also be something that demonstrates to the executive how PR can be used to meet their individual goals. 

Support Product or Service Launches

Everytime a company launches a new product or service into the market, PR should help make it a success. A few ways to guide executives on how a company will measure this success can include generating a specific number of articles about the product launch, or increasing website traffic to the product page following the announcement. 

What’s most important is to demonstrate how PR will bring additional visibility to the launch that would not be achieved otherwise.

Measure and Track PR Metrics

Business executives are used to seeing the tangible results of their companies’ success through various metrics and KPIs—for example, qualified leads, customer retention rates, net profit, sales, referrals, the list goes on.

They expect to see the same sort of measurable results when demonstrating PR value. 

However, it’s also important for them to understand which business metrics apply to PR and which don’t. Many are accustomed to measuring PR impact through circulation or impression numbers, which are rarely an accurate representation of how many individuals have actually viewed—or better yet, interacted with—a piece of press coverage. 

For this reason, it’s best to show executives on the front end of a PR campaign or program how you will be measuring success along the way. 

PR metrics can be as straightforward as measuring quantity and/or quality of press coverage, but can also include things like how much a company has improved its SEO rankings since the start of a PR program, or how much their website traffic has increased.

We wrote a whole blog on how to set and measure PR goals here.

Create Opportunities for Executives to Get Involved

Seeing is believing for many executives when it comes to PR. This means providing them with the opportunity to share their insights, speak with journalists, and—ideally—get featured in the press. Many times, all it takes is to deliver on one specific executive PR goal, and they’ll be on board for good. 

This could be securing a piece of coverage or thought leadership article in the executive’s dream publication, or it could be securing coverage for a particular product or capability that they want to bring attention to. 

Some additional ideas on how to get executives involved in PR include: 

  • Conducting regular intake sessions to get their thoughts on trending topics, and then pitching them to the press as an expert source
  • Creating a steady cadence of published articles under the executives’ byline
  • Lining up a series of podcast interviews featuring the executive 
  • Quoting the executive in press release(s)
  • Securing in-person deskside meetings for the executive and key journalists 
  • Scheduling meet-and-greets between the executive and journalists at industry conferences and events

Prepare for Challenges and Questions

Even once executives have signed off on a PR program, they will inevitably have questions throughout. It’s best to share proactive updates with them throughout the course of a campaign, relationship or program to show consistent PR value—especially when they’re intimately involved with the subject matter. 

Common questions executives have about PR include: 

  • What were the results of [insert campaign or initiative here]? This is when it’s important to always have quantifiable PR data on hand, such as the total number of articles that resulted from an initiative. 
  • What happened with that article I was supposed to be quoted in? As soon as an executive knows that there is potential for them to be included in an article, it’s best to give them a general idea of when it might publish—even if that’s months away. And in the unfortunate, but unavoidable, case that they contribute to an article that doesn’t publish, or they aren’t included, be prepared to provide a proactive recommendation on how you will repurpose the content they provided for another initiative.
  • When will my byline publish? Again, constant communication is key, even if it’s just sharing that there are no updates yet. 
  • What did our PR agency do this month to support us? A good PR agency should never leave a company with questions about the work they’re doing to further the company’s goals. However, even if you have to ask the agency for their updates, it’s a good idea to have them ready at all times in case an executive has questions. 
  • What services are included in our PR retainer? Some common PR services provided by an agency include press release drafting and distribution, media relations, thought leadership, crisis communications, analyst relations, awards and speaking engagements, and more. 
  • Why do we need a PR agency? The benefits of hiring a PR agency stem from the range of services they offer. A good PR agency should create a custom scope of work for each of their clients that connects the client’s specific business goals with public relations services and tactics, and therefore, drives results that influence those goals.
  • What PR results can we expect from [insert campaign or initiative here]? With every initiative, provide projected KPIs that will serve as goals for the PR team, and help manage expectations with executives. Doing this beforehand can help mitigate any questions or concerns once the initiative is underway.

In Conclusion

We stand by our claim that—with the right approach—PR can make just about any executive a believer. Here is a quick recap on how to demonstrate that: 

How to Demonstrate PR Value to Executives

Leave a Reply