Public Relations

Status Reports and the Value of PR Activity

I’ve worked on both the agency and client side in various PR functions. One thing I grew to hate was creating (or reviewing) status reports. For those of you not familiar with status reports and weekly updates that the majority of PR agencies create, they go something like this:

  • 3-5 bullet points (at most) of something that was actually achieved in the week (placements appeared, secured placements, interviews conducted, etc.)
  • 30-40 bullet points of ongoing work – a long list of attempted contact (called and left a message, the journalist wasn’t available, suggested we call back next year, etc.)

Now I realize some agencies do a better job at this than others, but really, where’s the value in all this “potential results” discussion? If you were to just focus on the actual results accomplished, the reports and calls would be much shorter.

Status reports and weekly updates are useful vehicles to communicate activity to clients. But often, they mask what’s actually going on – there is way more effort exerted than results generated. Of course, my point of view is from that of a small agency working with small clients. Typically tech startups have a harder time generating publicity than a “sexy” client with a bigger budget. For example, I’m sure the status reports and weekly updates for an account like Facebook or Twitter are fascinating. But what about the companies you’ve never heard of? They’re thin with output, though their budgets may be in the $5K-$10K per month range.

Are 5-10 placements per month worth that investment? It depends on where those placements appear and what the goals and objectives of your campaign are. Of the 100 or so accounts I’ve been a part of, more often than not the ROI just doesn’t add up.

This raises an interesting point about the value of press hits in general. In a recent PR Week article, “Value of press hits varies by industry,” Frank Washkuch cites a recent study from Text 100 and its research subsidiary Context Analytics that finds:

  • Overall, 27 percent of a brand’s value was tied to how often the brand name appeared in the press, but that figure changed significantly depending on the industry
  • When consumers perform research before making a car or computer purchase, for example, prominence in the media played a more significant role
  • For example, 48 percent of the computing industry’s brand value was explained by media prominence, 16 times that of the personal care industry
  • Media prominence accounted for 23 percent of the brand value for the automotive industry, and 20 percent for consumer electronics
  • In apparel, only 1% of the brand value was attributed to media prominence

I think the key observation in this data is that results have varied value depending on the industry you’re in. To take things a step further, placements in online outlets may be worthless or more than print, due to the search engine and clickability factors delivered by the former, or the pass-along of print. Either way, status reports, and weekly updates should focus less on the busy work and more on the tangible value being delivered by the campaign. Anyone can talk about all the great things they’re going to do for a client. The firms that actually deliver the goods are the ones that command the most respect and fees.

If you’re one of those agencies that only reports on results and success, rather than a laundry list of things you’re working on – a task list prepared before the weekly call or before the monthly invoice that goes out the door.

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