Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Discretionary" = "Death"

For years I have counseled our senior managers that they should view their contributions to clients' programs much as a lawyer would:

"You are offering premium value; clients pay us for your counsel; your advice and work make a real impact; you are a professional in your demeanor and a pro at what you do... You should act accordingly; you should be treated accordingly."

Meanwhile, though, the PR industry is under seige regarding billing practices: procurement officers are getting more and more involved in contract negotiations, often because PR is so hard to quantifiably measure (another of my pet passions)!

Compare this to OTHER service industries, such as Accounting or Legal services. That's what the Mercer Island Group did, last summer. A telling quote: "Business service firms such as law and accounting firms are good at identifying and securing the value for their work. Clients view services such as legal representation and accounting as more of a fixed cost of doing business (empasis added), rather than the more discretionary nature of marketing services."

It is only because we PR practioners cannot MEASURE our results that we are considered DISCRETIONARY.

When one of our clients engaged SHIFT's LeadSensor process and found that about 25% of their closed deals had originally come to the table via the PR "channel," trust me, PR got moved off the list of "discretionary" budget items.

And if that sounds like biased self-promotion, then please, please, tell me about your firm's work in quantifying bottom-line impacts! I will happily post all about it.

It's no good to me to be a lone wolf on this: the entire industry needs to wrap its arms around the Measurement Question.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mike Spinney said...

I hate to affirm Todd's view, since I work for a different PR firm, but I can't help but agree.

A little history: Nearly ten years ago when I walked through the door of a tech firm in Mass, one of the first tasks given to me was to help with the development of an evaluation tool. It was admittedly rudimentary, but it addressed a need, and when the process behind that measurement tool was explained to our clients, they seemed to respond positively.

The manager who delegated that task to me was Todd Defren. Even in those days, Todd was busy trying to show his clients, in measurable terms, what they were getting for their PR dollars.

Fast forward a few years, post bubble, and I had an experience that further illustrates the value of measurement and evidence that PR works. One of my clients, in a budget cutting move, eliminated all spending on advertising. They put thier entire marketing budget behind PR. One year later an analysis (the company's, not mine)of that company's new biz leads determined that fully 33% of their prospects came as a result of the PR program.

Anecdotally, any flack worth his salt will be able to cite examples of hits that got the phones ringing, but when clients are able to see objective analysis that supports their investment in PR, and that shows PR's impact on the bottom line, it makes a big difference.

Keep the faith, Todd. And for you unbelievers, don't be left behind.

January 05, 2006  
Blogger Mike Spinney said...

I hate to provide affirmation to Todd's view, since I work for a different PR firm, but I can't help but agree.

A little history: Nearly ten years ago when I walked through the door of a tech firm in Mass, one of the first tasks given to me was to help with the development of an evaluation tool. It was admittedly rudimentary, but it addressed a need, and when the process behind that measurement tool was explained to our clients, they seemed to respond positively.

The manager who delegated that task to me was Todd Defren. Even in those days, Todd was busy trying to show his clients, in measurable terms, what they were getting for their PR dollars.

Fast forward a few years, post bubble, and I had an experience that further illustrates the value of measurement and evidence that PR works. One of my clients, in a budget cutting move, eliminated all spending on advertising. They put thier entire marketing budget behind PR. One year later an analysis (the company's, not mine)of that company's new biz leads determined that fully 33% of their prospects came as a result of the PR program.

Anecdotally, any flack worth his salt will be able to cite examples of hits that got the phones ringing, but when clients are able to see objective analysis that supports their investment in PR, and that shows PR's impact on the bottom line, it makes a big difference.

Keep the faith, Todd. And for you unbelievers, don't be left behind.

January 05, 2006  

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