The year in PR: Industry growth was strong in 2019—but execs wanted better outcomes

by | Dec 9, 2019 | Public Relations

Insightful new research from North 6th Agency (N6A) points to a sizeable gap between executives’ expectations of PR performance, and the results they are receiving. The firm’s survey data suggests that execs have clear ideas about what they want from PR, but are frustrated by their teams’ ability to deliver appropriate results. Poor communication and goal setting were found to likely be the root cause of this frustration.

The firm’s newly released 2019 N6A PR Effectivenessstudy reveals that executives are aware of PR’s ability to drive brand awareness; however, other opportunities exist to leverage PR campaigns, especially for companies seeking to demonstrate enterprise value, attract investors and/or buyers, or even to recruit talent in a fiercely competitive market.

The year in PR: Industry growth was strong in 2019—but execs want better outcomes

Today’s PR landscape

The global PR industry is responsible for generating $16 billion in revenue in 2018, and employed almost 94,000 people, according to data from research firm IBIS World. Industry growth is significantly outpacing the global economy as a whole—since 2013, global GDP has grown by an average of 2.85 percent annually, according to the World Bank. Over the same period, IBIS World indicates that the PR industry has grown by 5.3 percent annually, practically double.Is that growth rate sustainable?
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These are certainly impressive numbers, yet while business leaders firmly believe that PR should be tied to specific business outcomes, very few say they see the results they expect. A breakdown in communication is a likely culprit—just 30 percent believe that their PR teams have been made fully aware of KPIs related to PR.

The year in PR: Industry growth was strong in 2019—but execs want better outcomes

What is causing this communication rift between business leaders and PR?

“The communications rift is caused by only 30 percent of revenue leaders (of the folks we surveyed) saying that they are confident that they have clearly articulated KPIs to their PR people. That’s absurd in an era where the average tenure of a CMO is 18 months and accountability and measurability has become paramount,” Jordan Cohen, chief marketing officer of N6A, told Bulldog Reporter.

“From my perspective, the reason for this is that too many companies look at PR as a checkbox. They are a company and therefore they need PR,” he added. “In those situations, PR lives in an Ivory Tower and doesn’t contribute to business outcomes, thus resulting in frustrations with PR.”

Getting back on track

When considering launching PR initiatives, it is imperative that leaders define and communicate specific, measurable goals and outcomes for each initiative, according to the report.

Identifying desired outcomes today starts with considering strategic business goals that go beyond traditional considerations such as brand awareness. For smaller companies in particular, attracting talent, elevating enterprise value and amplifying coverage for potential suitors are areas that could provide great value.

Once this overall strategy is set, specific, measurable KPIs should be identified and clearly communicated to PR teams, whether internal, external or blended, in combination with improvements in other marketing metrics like site visits, qualified leads, opportunities created, and revenue.

The year in PR: Industry growth was strong in 2019—but execs want better outcomes

Which modern comms metrics should PR be focusing on?

“PR should be held to business outcomes, not unique impressions per publication,” Cohen said. “Brand awareness is nice, but outcomes like increasing sales in a new vertical, increasing share of voice against competitors, growing enterprise value, setting your company up for a fundraise or an exit, and even getting better at recruiting are all tangible outcomes that PR can help drive.

“We encourage sales and marketing leaders (and founders/CEOs) to think about PR that way,” he continued. “What do you want to achieve as a business and how can PR help you achieve those outcomes? If you know those things and articulate them to your PR team, PR can not only play a role in achieving those outcomes but a predominant one. Anyone can buy an ad, but getting The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal to write about you is 10x more valuable from a marketing perspective.”

Download the full report here.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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