Public relations - measuring results, managing media. Plus a word on corporate blogging
Happy Independence Day!
After this post, I am going to take TypePad's advice and take a blogging holiday over the weekend while they upgrade the software. But I have been holding onto a few things that will be REALLY old by Tuesday. So while they are still sort of blogworthy, here goes.
First, I seem to be on a PR tack lately, and this topic is no exception. A few weeks ago, Sam Whitmore co-hosted the Hobson & Holtz Report, and threw a couple of topics out to the audience for comment. I listened to the show while traveling out of town, and with this and that, haven't been able to get to my thoughts until now.
The first issue was PR measurement and budget preservation. Sam commented that in order to preserve PR budgets, it seemed that MarComm and PR folk needed to do a better job of quantifying PR results. He also mentioned a PR agency that was in fact promoting its ability to demonstrate ROI.
The key I think is that marketers have got to look at PR as part of an integrated marketing plan, and look at the impact of the PR activities on sales, not just on brand awareness. In other words, count leads, not clips.
When I was at SurfControl, we tracked PR hits against downloads of trial software from the company Web site. After a major hit, downloads increased by a significant factor, for about 2-5 days, depending in the breadth and depth of the coverage, and then returned to normal levels. Proof positive of a definite relationship between PR and leads. Now, if I could have only gotten the sales reps to actually ask the prospects where they heard of the product....
The other topic Sam raised was to ask whether professional media training has created executives who are better at managing the media than the reporters are at conducting the interview. He pointed to an example in the tech trades where two pubs ran eerily similar stories about a tech company ... down to the same headline ... as proof that the executive being interviewed was clearly more in control of the story than the reporters who were covering it.
I could have this wrong, but it seemed that Sam's point was that professional media training, which has created these execs who stay on message, is ruining the media, making it impossible for reporters, who don't have the luxury of the same training, to get the real story. I just don't think that's right.
There is a difference between not answering a question (dodging) and staying on message. The company exec (and her PR firm) have a responsibility to the company to tell the story it wants told. They should answer direct questions but as long as they answer the actual question before moving on to their point, it is wrong to fault them for staying on message.
It is the journalist's job to conduct the interview, ask the tough questions, get the answers and write an original story. Most journalists of my acquaintance do this. We all understand the rules of engagement, and do our jobs.
If reporters take shortcuts and don't do their homework, don't ask the tough questions, and rely too heavily on a press release or company statements, versus their own instincts, they just aren't doing their job. The one the readers expect them to.
The answer isn't to stop training company executives to be better communicators. It is to maintain journalistic standards. Perhaps, as Sam suggested, journalists should be exposed to the same communications training that their subjects get. I think that's an excellent idea; the J-schools and the publications themselves should both explore this idea.
But don't blame the company communicators for doing their jobs. Of course, media training helps the exec do a better job in the interview. That's why we do it. And we aren't going to stop.
Over at PR Communications, John Cass has released the results of his corporate blogging survey.
Finally, it is my birthday next week and my husband gave me my present early. As I went to the store with him last night to get it, seemed silly to wrap it and wait until Tuesday. So anyway, my iPod is off the s*** list and I am loving my new Bose SoundDock. Tomorrow, we'll be packing up boxes and boxes of CDs for storage.
Happy holidays everyone. Stay safe, and enjoy fireworks and alcohol responsibly (and not together). See you Tuesday.
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