Is the PR industry tightening its belt?

Every year, PRWeek and Cision set out to find the biggest challenge for PR agencies worldwide in their Global Comms Report – and this year, it’s limited budgets. Unlike the rest of us this January, is the PR industry tightening its belt?

21% of firms surveyed identified budget as their single biggest problem, with a further 57% listing it as one of their top-three concerns.

It’s no surprise. Comms teams have more financial decisions to make than ever before.

For example, the agencies of yesteryear didn’t have to worry about whether or not to pay influencers for content, whereas these days 58% of global respondents say they ‘pay influencers to a notable degree’.

But is this investment working? It’s hard to say.

A close second on the top comms concerns chart was an inability to measure impact effectively, with 20% of firms unable to get an accurate picture of the effect their work has.

Firms in the US even cited it as their biggest barrier to performing optimally. The answer to this conundrum could lie in the fact that North American spending on measuring the impact of their comms programme is among the lowest of all the areas surveyed, with just 34% of US firms devoting at least 10% of their annual budget to it.

So, what came first: the chicken or the egg?

You can’t effectively decide where to allocate your precious budget, or indeed put forward a case for a larger budget, without knowing what works. But if you aren’t spending the money needed to measure your impact (or lack thereof), your strategy might be unknowingly failing you, leaving you in the dark as to why you’re not seeing results.

It can be difficult to know where to begin, especially if your budget remains as tight as it was last year like roughly 45% of PR pros predict – here are three ways to get a quick idea of whether or not you’re getting the ROI you deserve:

Content analysis
You’ve got loads of mentions in your target media outlets and your impressions are skyrocketing – but don’t rest on your laurels yet. Quantity is important but quality is crucial.

Was your client portrayed in the light you intended?

Did the publication include all the key points that conveyed how brilliant your client is?

Was the information included alongside unflattering stories about others that could tarnish your client’s reputation by association?

They say there’s no such thing as bad press but, if the coverage isn’t valuable, that sounds pretty bad to us.

Survey, so good
You probably wouldn’t embark on a diet without weighing yourself first, so why start a campaign without assessing the lay of the land beforehand?

It’s hard to chart progress without a starting point. Before each campaign, be sure to conduct a market survey to find out what you’re working with. Then conduct another survey during or after the campaign to compare the (hopefully new and improved) awareness statistics.

You’ll immediately have a clear picture of the impact your strategy is having, and over time you’ll have an entire bank of what works and what doesn’t. 

At the end of the day…
You could drive yourself mad worrying about whether your campaigns are having the impact you hoped for, but if your clients are happy then you must be doing something right.

Give them ample opportunity to voice concerns and room to adjust their goals (within reason) as the campaign progresses. Keeping them in the loop about the success of the campaign will ensure they feel comfortable letting you take the reins.

And don’t shy away from calling a retrospective so you can pick up on where you may have fallen short during the process for next time. Trust their feedback and you’ll soon have a roadmap to creating the impact that matters to your clients.