In a data-driven world, it is natural and necessary for PR to keep pace with the demand for measurable outputs. The elusive aim of measuring the results generated through media relations activity has become even more of a focus in the current technical marketing agency environment, dominated as it is by lead and demand gen – and it’s a theme which Publitek will be exploring more deeply in the coming weeks.
Saying this, those of us working in PR have long carried an understanding of the value of the less-tangible outcomes that accompany the high-quality practice of media relations. If you will, of the butterfly effect which undeniably exists around consistently excellent PR practice. Something that might not tick a box in the Scope of Work agreement but never-the-less is deemed as a win to the team. However, when it comes to discussing these less-tangible outcomes the arguments can sound ‘fluffy’, underwhelming and even viewed as a ready-made excuse for not achieving more formal deliverables such as a ‘number’ of pieces of media coverage.
An elusive journalist finally returning a call or replying to an email, a French media outlet taking the effort to translate an English press release, a publisher offering a free speaking spot at a digital event because they specifically want input from your client. None of these are on the SoW – and none of them appear out of thin air. The drumbeat of media relations is akin to the flap of the butterfly’s wings in chaos theory – the knock-on effect of which can lead to unexpected happenings.
To give a more concrete example, that Publitek has seen as part of its pro-bono media consultancy work for Engineers Without Borders UK. We have been pitching interviews with the charity’s Head of Engineering, Emma Crichton as a key spokesperson for the organization. Emma is a Civil Engineer by training and therefore the New Civil Engineer podcast was an obvious choice for an interview about the organization and its views on ethical engineering.
The conversation was a huge success with the podcast shared widely on social channels. This was a big tick against the deliverables. But, in addition a week or so later, the editor got in touch to say they needed a lead interview for the April issue – and fast! Could they rework the conversation into an interview for the magazine?
Come publication date, we received our copy of the magazine only to find out that, not only has the interview been run, it has resulted in the entire front cover revolving around Engineers Without Borders UK. We didn’t pitch for the lead interview, let alone the cover. It only happened because of the podcast, the relationship this established, and our willingness to help the journalist out.
All of Publitek’s PR team has a story such as this. An article on a trade website comes up in a Google search and you have a business journalist on the phone asking to speak to your client to support their research into a related story. Getting a publication some high-quality backup content when someone else has let them down means they approach you first next time for a feature they’re working on. An editor can’t make a briefing, meaning the target for calls isn’t met, but they’re organizing a new podcast series and get in touch a month later because they appreciated our pitch.
Although the clear structure of a campaign is central to successful work, it is important not to lose sight of the existence of, and the genuine value of, ‘intangible’ results. The art of PR must be practiced as well as the science. The placement of articles, secured interviews, and incoming leads exist within an ecosystem of trust, engagement, and interest in your company that can take you to places not explicitly plotted in the annual plan.