The theme for this year's PRSA International Conference was “delivering value,” in particular PR's role in driving business. Given the struggling economy and procurement's growing involvement in the hiring of marketing communications agencies, the topic was timely and relevant.
Yet, disappointingly, several of the case studies featured at the conference failed to connect otherwise inspiring PR campaigns to business outcomes. When pressed, PR representatives from companies said sales metrics are primarily used by marketing, not PR – or that PR's role was to raise awareness, not drive sales. It's this type of thinking that causes PR to be sometimes burdened with perceptions of being a cost center or an expenditure that doesn't produce tangible ROI.
Of course, PR is not a precise science and its results are sometimes difficult to quantify. But as several of the speakers at PRWeek's Next Conference this week noted, communications has an obligation to prove that it is a valuable business discipline, not merely a way to garner buzz or millions of media impressions.
PR's perception within the marketing function and C-Suite can only change if the industry demands it. The burden rests on PR professionals within corporations and agencies to push to be measured by tougher metrics. When possible, one of a PR campaign's end goals should always be to drive business results. Anything that is counter to that will only hold the industry back.