You walk into a meeting with your client, and at the end of the conference room sits the Big Boss. Before you can even get comfortable in your seat, the Boss, in her (yes, I prefer not to stereotype that all bosses are men) no-nonsense tone, no filter, tells you that she thinks her investment in your agency is not bringing in the ROI that she expects.
We all have been in that situation. I’ve no doubt that we’ve put in our very best effort in what we do to help our clients rise above their challenges, yet it’s still not good enough? Imagine the exasperation that we feel at that moment when the client drops that bombshell on us.
We can’t give up just like that though. So, how do we communicate the value of PR to clients and company leaders who seem to have mismatched expectations of how PR can contribute to their overall organisation success?
Here’s a look at some of the challenges faced by communicators and what we can do about it. Spoiler alert: be prepared to re-learn from the beginning.
Coping with immediacy
Don’t you just hate it when you’re all excited about your day off and are raring to go about your plans for the day, riiiiing, you get a call from the office. As it turns out, someone has shared a negative post about your client and it has now gone viral. You cancel all your plans, and as quickly as your eye-hand coordination can manage, you get into fire-fighting mode on your phone while switching on your laptop and psyche yourself up for yet another looooong day ahead.
The internet and social media have made the world we live in smaller. Social media has also given everyone a voice, for better or worse. People can freely express their opinions and spew hatred or insults towards companies, making them susceptible to negative sentiment. Irate customers can take photos or videos and upload it to the internet for everyone to see at any time. Sometimes, these contents are shared without fact-checking on the part of the poster. You’re expected to respond immediately as even just one negative comment about the company is unacceptable by the client.
The expectation to respond quickly could sometimes do more harm than good, especially when the response is not properly thought through. Given the immediacy of social media, the best defense strategy for communicators is to plan for the worst in advance. Counter misinformation with correct information using an authoritative voice and source.
In addition, having an active media monitoring in place as part of a routine brand health check to keep an eye on any negative news and unfavourable comments from naysayers is a proactive measure that you can take to avert social media crises. Isentia complements your media monitoring with daily reports to provide you with a timely summary of trending topics, taking the pressure off you from having to scour the digital space for updates. You’ll also be alerted of any negative content throughout the day so you can focus on the big stuff.
Cutting through the clutter
The nature of communication has changed along with the increase in speed and volume. Time spent scrolling the internet is increasing as on-demand information is just a few clicks away. Communicators are now finding themselves in desperate need to cut through the clutter and fight for what little attention span that people have before they move on to the next content.
Thus, storytelling with authentic messages is even more important than ever. It’s about creating a message, thinking about the different customer segments that you want to hear that message, and the desired impact that you intend to achieve. If you’re still reading up to this point, you may be thinking, it’s easier said than done. Creating good content takes time, and clients don’t like to wait.
Fair enough. So what do we do? Anticipate the needs of your audience and center them as the focus of the content. A good way to get started is to look across all the channel analytics and assess what content has generated attention among the intended audience. Which story received the most media exposure? Did it lead to favourable conversations on social media? Did those conversations then foster purchase intentions?
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It doesn’t have to be. Leave it to the expert. Isentia uses various datasets to arrive at mixed-method insights to help you understand the consumers from various perspectives. You’ll be advised of the types of contents that gain traction so you can take inspiration from the findings and plan your content strategy. As if that’s not enough, the data is available on an interactive dashboard so that you can do your own slice and dice whenever, wherever you want. No more guesswork.
Spreading the resources thinly
“Why aren’t we on this channel?”
“This platform is new. I want to be there.”
“My boss likes this page. We need to be there.”
Sounds familiar? At one point or another, we’d have had similar conversations with our clients. In an ideal world, we’d have brand presence in all the channels that are available out there.
New platforms, social media channels, news sites, and blogs are constantly emerging. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to determine which channel our clients need to build an online presence on. What clients need to understand is that they don’t need to be on every social media platform. With limited resources, they’ll reap better results by being selective and direct their efforts to channels that support their strategic goals.
A social listening tool will help you to identify where conversations relevant to the client’s target audience take place. It’ll also provide data on where the competition is and what their top-performing content is based on engagement metrics such as number of shares and comments. The insights will help you zoom in to highly selective, targeted channels for the client with reference to content that works which you can adopt to ensure the success of your strategy.
With all said and done, the question remains. How do we provide a quantified measurement of impact and demonstrate the ROI of a PR effort to a client who may lack understanding of how communications work, that PR initiatives don’t always translate into immediate sales increase? PR is about building relationships through content, through communities, and through influencers using social media. Stop confusing us with your sales team, let us do our job and we’ll support you through and through. Oh, I didn’t just say that out loud, did I? Oh well, I’m sure that’s the same thing you have in your mind, too.
The key to navigating client expectations is to set expectations upfront and establish a clear and measurable goal that will guide the framework for evaluation with which you’ll track the agreed KPIs. Yes, we’ve all heard this before, but the truth is, there’s no better way to manage client expectations than having everything set out in black and white.
Effective communication is similar to the 4Ps of marketing. The intended message is the product that we need to sell to our audience. The right communication channels or place will ensure that the message reaches the right audience. Promotion looks at how to craft the message and differentiate the product in such a way that it triggers interest. The price is the effort that the audience feels justified to put in to receive the perceived value and benefits in order to influence the “purchase” intent.
Following the communication, there must be a transparent, consistent and valid method to measure the effectiveness and how well the message is received.
If you don’t have a system for measurement, create one that will help you track your output, out-take, outcome, and impact of your effort. It should go beyond counting activity such as the number of media coverage received, to demonstrate the effectiveness of your strategy. Talk to Isentia today and let us show you how our proprietary methodology can help you with your measurement of what a successful PR initiative looks like.
By Ho Paik San, Associate Insights Director of Isentia Malaysia