Our wonderful commercial director Emma Fair gives her (accountant’s) perspective on PR and whether or not it is valuable to the bottom line.
‘What exactly is PR?’ asked the finance person….
I am an accountant – not something I necessarily always want to shout about, but between you and I nothing pleases me more than a good spreadsheet! My career started as a trainee CA in the audit department at KPMG where I would audit companies, carry out stock takes and generally do all the things the more experienced accountants didn’t want to do. I then went on to work in industry in publishing and media for ten years before landing a job at Perceptive Communicators.
The one thing that the companies I audited and those I had previously worked in had in common was that there was always an end product – something tangible you could get your hands on, count at a stock take and, as auditors like to do, ‘physically verify’.
Perceptive Communicators was very different, there was no end product as such and it took me some time to get my head around this. I thought I knew what PR was before I joined the company but the reality was that I knew about 10% of what PR was all about.
With my accountant’s head on PR was something you spent money on as everyone else was doing it and it was a necessary (and costly) evil to promote an event or a new product. It was something that I gave lip service to in my budgeting process and the first thing that I would cut if spend was required elsewhere.
Looking back I wish I knew what I know now. The value of PR cannot be underestimated. For a business looking to raise its profile, gain brand awareness and keep one step ahead of competitors, it is vital. The coverage my colleagues gain for our clients in the local and national press, online and on TV and radio can’t be bought. Of course advertising spend can guarantee column inches, but this lacks the credibility of a journalist putting their name to it and is hugely expensive.
The PR for our clients is not a box ticking exercise. It’s strategically planned to convey the key messages our clients want to communicate with their identified target audiences – whether that’s customers, stakeholders, government or the wider public.
Something that pleases my spreadsheet-loving self is the fact that results matter to our PR team. KPIs are set and targets created to ensure the results can be evaluated and measured, allowing us to keep our quality high and keep the finance person at the client happy (return on investment is key to us accountant types).
With my accountant’s head back on another value for money area is crisis communications and reputation management. On many occasions my colleagues have donned their ‘Superhero PR’ capes (theoretically of course, there’s no budget for unnecessary items!) and gone to the rescue of a client to save the day and their reputation. It’s hard to put a value on this – it could be as valuable as saving a company from ruin which is priceless, but the minimum benefit is that the crisis communications fee will be a lot less than the spend required to rebuild reputation and gain customers’ trust following an unfortunate incident.
When people ask me now who I work for I can proudly explain to them what we achieve rather than mumbling something about communications and promptly changing the subject.
So finance people out there – don’t write PR off as an unnecessary spend instead rethink the PR line in your budget and what the value of this could actually be. You never know when you might need that PR Superhero!
If you would like to discuss, create or update your company’s PR strategy, get in touch. We are generate outstanding results for clients across PR, marketing, event management and social media. We also provide top-notch social media training for in-house teams, and we would love to help you in any aspect of your company’s communications.