Tag Archives: public relations excellence

ROI – the holy grail of public relations value

Organisations with effective change and communication programs are about 3.5 times more likely to outperform industry peers.

So why is it so hard for PRs to articulate the value of what they do?

And sending students out into the world of communication management equipped with a solid foundation of data to defend their team and the PR function?  Forget it!

Even with access to academic research, it is still difficult to quantify the effect of public relations on organisations – or what we call return on investment (ROI).

So we were pretty excited when we found this research from Willis Towers Watson that surveyed 651 organisations.  It might be three years old, but it, and the 10 years of studies it builds on, gives a very clear picture of what effect good communication can have:

  • superior financial performance (by three and a half times) to that of industry peers in 2013-14
  • a 57% higher return to shareholders 2000-04
  • improvement in communication effectiveness that was associated with a 29.5% increase in market value 1998-2002

‘Effective communication performance’ is built on:

  • Employees – a deep understanding of culture, and developing and delivering on a specific employee value proposition (EVP)
  • Six activities that influence change success:
    • Leading
    • Communicating
    • Learning
    • Measuring
    • Involving
    • Sustaining
  • Targeted and strategic social media
  • Focus on the consumer
  • True engagement of employees
  • Manager training in communication
  • Strong role of internal communications managers in managing change
  • Branding the employee experience (leading to the EVP)

So what are they talking about and how was it measured?

Return on Investment (ROI) of communications is a measurement of the investment in the PR function against overall financial performance.

It was measured by asking companies to place themselves into one of three groups for financial performance, communication effectiveness, and ability to manage change.  Each performance category had a number of activities on which organisations were asked to rate their performance. The flaw is that the Willis Towers Watson surveys have established a trend, rather than a causal relationship.

Probably not as rigorous as this excellent modeling exercise by Kim (2009), but certainly easier to read and with a takeaway that we can use in the board room!

Andrew Mason, Dr Chris Kossen, Matt Grant and Barbara Ryan teach in the communication specialisations in the Graduate Certificate of Business at the University of Southern Queensland.






Content marketing – isn’t that PR?

girl-using-tablet-on-the-garden-picjumbo-comContent marketing’ is the latest marketing buzzword, and just saying the words brings out a little enthusiasm in everyone.

But what is it? The Content Marketing Institute defines it as: “…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

But this is what we all do in public relations, and we have been since the days of Arthur Page. After all, the public relations activity of engagement is about creating long term dialogue with stakeholders (including customers).

Around the time of World War II, Arthur Page was working as Director of Public Relations for AT&T (he was there from 1931 until 1946). He worked to set of principles that have laid the groundwork for the modern PR approach of establishing firm relationships with target publics. While he didn’t write these principles down, the Arthur W. Page Society has. These are to:
• Tell the truth
• Prove it with action
• Listen to stakeholders
• Manage for tomorrow
• Conduct public relations as if the whole enterprise depends on it
• Realise an enterprise’s true character is expressed by its people
• Remain calm, patient and good natured.

Three of these lay the groundwork for content marketing. Listening to stakeholders, managing for tomorrow and working for the long term good of the enterprise are principles that support engagement of our target publics on issues wider than the our classification of that target public.

In the 1980s, James Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model of public relations proposed mutual give-and-take rather than one-way persuasion, and efforts to achieve mutual understanding and respect, among other things.

So investors get information about the company and its environment, not just messages that justify actions that could affect dividends and share price.

The organisation’s physical neighbours are part of the conversation about its place in the community, not just when something goes wrong.

Customers are provided with, and encouraged to share, ideas on how to make their life easier/more fun/wealthier, not just about our brand.

Having provided this value, we have stakeholders who are willing to give us their opinions, have a dialogue, and support the organisation in tough times. Social media has made all of this much easier.

Isn’t this called reputation management and stakeholder engagement? And PRs have been doing it for over 60 years.

Barbara Ryan is a lecturer in public relations at the University of Southern Queensland.