Overcoming Conventional Wisdom: Public Relations Must Demonstrate Value by Generating Value


Mark Weiner, Chief Executive Officer, PRIME Research 

As the reputation of public relations within corporations continues to grow, we face an increased need to generate a positive return on investment as well as a satisfactory return on expectation. Unlike our everyday challenges with journalists, analysts and opinion-leaders, these challenges originate with our internal clients. Top executives keep public relations budgets low while maintaining high expectations.  In this way, public relations falls victim to the conventional business wisdom that PR hasn’t earned more resources because it cannot be measured.

New Challenges for Marketing and Public Relations

While the stigma has improved over time thanks to the good works of the Institute for Public Relations, AMEC and their members, every professional shares the need for PR to overcome conventional business wisdom. We must dispel tired notions that we function as a communications deli counter:  a pound of media; a quarter pound of social and a press release on the side. By fulfilling their wishes without helping to evolve their thinking, we limit PR’s capacity to achieve meaningful business results.

Overcoming Conventional Wisdom - Public Relations Must Demonstrate Value by Generating ValueDespite these assumptions, public relations is capable of some very heavy lifting. Whether raising awareness as a desirable place to work to aid in recruiting; promoting the company on Wall Street as a worthwhile investment, or creating marketing momentum to accelerate the sale of goods and services, PR continually proves its worth.

On the one hand, PR generally costs less than advertising so we may never have an equal budget simply because it’s unnecessary.  Still, to deliver consistent and effective public relations results, PR programs must be properly funded.

So, why is PR still relatively underfunded within the marketing and communications mix?

There are three reasons: unwillingness among practitioners to effectively measure PR efforts to prove value and ROI; inability to scale with increased spending (even if your media relations budget increased by 1000%, how many stories can the media reasonably expect to cover on your brand), and most importantly conventional business wisdom.

To help business and public relations evolve, we must demonstrate value by generating value.  We must quantify our work by using data to prove PR’s ROI. We must provide proof of performance, whether requested or not. Making the case is not necessarily expensive or complicated but it requires determination and effort.  Those who make the case are rewarded. Tracking your business landscape, setting measurable objectives, developing intelligent strategy and risk-averse tactics and tracking performance over time, versus competitors and in light of best practice begins through a simple commitment.  Dedication to proving value and improving ROI helps to ensure positive results when challenging conventional business wisdom.


 About the Author: Mark Weiner is the Chief Executive Officer of PRIME Research, an international research-based communications consultancy helping many of the world’s most admired companies and brands to improve their PR-ROI. 


1 Comment

  1. Ford Kanzler on at 12:26 PM

    Agree completely with your advocacy. However, would appreciate ideas for economically generating measurement data on which to base ROI. Many small and even mid-size companies still don’t have CRM or other ways of capturing reasonably hard data illuminating the effects of PR on business performance. But clients ask for that anyway. (E.g. A client who worries about measuring tactical PR effects and hasn’t a field on his web site’s prospect inquiry form requesting how they heard about the company!)
    Second point in graph 2 above, on inability to scale re. media coverage, seems to assume PR is only about publicity generation via media relations. There are numerous tactical options which increased PR budgets might be applied to, including: video, print publications, electronic newsletters, blogging, podcasts, speaking ops, books, events, contests, product placements, sponsorships, co-op actions with marketing allies and/or non-profits, etc.

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