Last Wednesday, June 23, WWPR hosted a professional development event with three accomplished professionals representing nonprofits, foundations, and industry leaders on the different ways and tactics – qualitative and quantitative – they take to measure success in their PR campaigns.

The panel was moderated by WWPR board member, Suzanne Struglinski, PR Manager at Industry Dive, and featured Jennifer Arnold, Associate Vice President, Marketing & Communications at the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Joanna Soffer, Government & External Affairs at T-Mobile, and Melissa Zuckerman, Senior Vice President at JPA Health.

Using third-party validators: Relationship building with stakeholders and working with them to drive up general interest and participation in a campaign. Melissa shared that in her campaigns, her team would include outreach to stakeholders that would be directly affected. Joanna seconded that and talked about how they rely on third-party validators to amplify the impact of their campaigns. It is important to have the segment of people who are actually affected serve as the storytellers. Jennifer agreed that it’s the third-party validators who are the trusted advisors in the communities. Their opinions and recommendations are valued. These third-party validators are who spread good word of mouth.

Hone in the right audience and outlets: The panel shared that one thing they consider is who is the target audience. It’s a necessary reality check before getting too far into planning. A huge chunk of America does not read NYT and WaPo so be strategic about media story pitching and placing. It is more important to find the outlets – local, industry, trade, social, etc. – that will actually be seen by those that need to be reached. “We want the people watching the game to know about the Foundation’s work, why it matters. We have to find the papers that speak to an audience we want to engage,” shared Jennifer about their media outreach strategy.

Set baselines and have your receipts: Remember anything that goes out externally IS PR. Be sure to know the baseline for media, web, paid, lead generation, newsletter subscriptions, etc. and key performance measures (KPIs) for them like media mentions, average open rate, click rate and more.  Having this baseline data will allow you to measure you success and tie your KPI to your organization’s strategic plan to show your value.

“Have your receipts” means being able to show your work and connect the dots between what you do – all the work that goes into the press release, the launch, the event, the op-ed, the placement, the third-party endorsement, etc. – and the organization’s success. There is a cause and effect of how your advocacy helps the organization’s desired outcome. An example of this could be Google analytics that show there is increased social and website travel around the date a press release is put out. An example could be tracking the citation score that demonstrates how many people are sharing the article and where there is conversation about the topic.

It’s also critical to keep these regular reports to demonstrate your worth – and your team’s worth – to the larger organization.

Get buy-in across the organization: A critical point all panelists mentioned is socializing the PR campaign and plan with the other business lines within the organization. This could be donors, program managers, scientists/researchers, etc. These are your internal partners and making sure they feel comfortable with your plan so you can get different perspectives and tell the full story. Not to mention, when you work at a big company with lots of other components, they may not even know your PR exists. There is also a level of education that is needed so that they know what PR does and how it can help them.

The panelists talked about some of the ways they help educate other business lines and strategies to ensure everyone is on the same page:  

  • Once a quarter to go through all the materials  – data points, talking points, branding guide, etc. – so making sure everybody is on message and has the right facts
  • Providing training to share ideas for them to talk to their audiences
  • Creating the materials + crafting with the other teams: programs, donors, etc.

In a lot of ways, PR can help breakdown silos and see the connections across the business lines. Having that knowledge is power – if there’s one person that knows that answer, it’s comms. All tides rise together and PR can be the convener.