Recently, 500 public relations, social media, and marketing experts were asked by Meltwater, the media intelligence and monitoring company, to weigh in on how they prioritize their responsibilities, time, and budget as the industry shifts to digital and social content creation.
Some of the findings were expected; respondents mentioned the blending of marketing and PR responsibilities, as well as the pressure to measure outcomes. But our takeaway is that PR budgets have not kept up with the new demands created by the digital environment. This is particularly true when it comes to allocating budget for monitoring and measurement, for content creation and for the increasingly important role of influencer relations.
When I was asked to be part of a webinar on the same study, I jumped at the chance. The resulting discussion was informative, leading to some advice for PR agencies and their clients when it comes to priorities.
Use agency skills to identify important influencers. Not surprisingly, the survey showed that key influencers in both B2B and B2C marketing have shifted from celebrities to newsworthy individuals and bloggers. This means more confusion for clients for whom this is uncharted territory, but it’s an opportunity for agencies. It’s up to PR teams to have vast and current knowledge of this ever-changing landscape of personalities. This means that you can toss out top TV stars or other traditional boldface names in favor of individuals who may have less reach, but greater relevance to a given target audience. Often, the personalities are hardly household names. So how to find the perfect match? It starts with hands-on research, simple google searches, consumption of pop culture sites and communities, and homing in on top influencer lists. You can pick your vertical – B2B tech? Wearables? IoT? There’s an influencer for just about everything. It also means a budget sufficient to achieve the best result. Our work for safety wearable Wearsafe bore this out when we were able to attract top tech personality Carley Knobloch to advocate for the product.
Take a long-term view on monitoring and analytics. The Meltwater study concluded that many PR and marketing pros aren’t tapping into such services to help them do their jobs better. A full 76% of respondents copped to not using any paid media monitoring or analytics tools, and 14% said they don’t track metrics at all. One reason may be that some tools are costly. This is understandable, but it doesn’t help PR teams over the long term, and over time, may limit their scope and budgets.
The key is to align with clients on achievable goals and specific KPIs prior to starting a campaign. Then, allocate a reasonable budget for measurement. It can be as low as three to five percent of the total program cost. We look to build monitoring, social listening and some analysis into the budget at the get-go and demonstrate the kinds of insights that can be gleaned from these tools. The goal is better internal merchandising of results – leading to increased prioritizing of PR efforts. We recently provided social media analytics to a client who had never before tracked the data. We were able to show an increase in output, followers and page views since signing on. This resulted in the organization increasing our social media responsibilities – and budget.
Leverage content creation across platforms. Content creation and social media planning are the top time and budget item for the survey sample, with good reason. Shrinking editorial staffs and an ongoing hunger for good content set up the perfect dynamic for agencies to create quality content that helps tell client stories. In our experience, client teams have little time to handle this function and look to their agencies to steer the ship. Agencies have gotten very savvy about building in time and resource budgets to manage this work and clients who see the advantages, usually sign on. It helps that many third parties who advise marketers sing the praises of outsourcing quality content and PR firms can use this kind of advocacy to their advantage.
As with all PR work, it’s up to agency teams to continue to sell the value of these services and to ask for appropriate compensation for the talent and time required. To do less is to shortchange the client, agency, and even future campaigns.