The numbers don't lie
A couple weeks ago there was great joy in Red Sox Nation when one of our unlikely heroes -- Dustin Pedroia, our smallest player and starting second-baseman -- was named MVP of the American League. It was gratifying for two reasons. First of all, no one deserved it more. This is a player who comes to play every single game and gives everything he's got -- no, more than he's got, really. Heck, he subbed for our slugger, David Ortiz, who towers over him, in the three spot in the batting order when Ortiz was injured during a key run-up to the playoffs. And he did well! Secondly, it was a great lesson that it isn't the flashy and obvious choice that is the winner. Pedroia wasn’t every sportswriter’s first choice initially, but once they crunched the numbers, they could see that his overall performance was superior to that of his competitors.
The numbers didn't lie and the measurement of them was key in awarding the true top performer, the MVP. As we've been working with our clients on their 2009 planning, many have asked us to help them pull information on the best way to focus their marketing spend to get the absolute most out of every dollar. We're telling them that a key to this is making sure they are crunching the numbers and evaluating the return on their spend. If they don't have a tool to do this, we have put together some good cost effective ones they can use. We're confident that as they measure their marketing spend, they are going to find that the best dollars are spent on PR that smartly incorporates targeted social media.
Marketwire recently published a white paper [note that you have to register for the free download] entitled the "Top 10 Strategies for Boosting ROI Despite Shrinking Budgets and Dwindling Resources." The first strategy was to leverage "PR 2.0" to tap into the social networks that directly influence customers. Many publications are shrinking, which means that the journalistic channel to their customers is slimmer than in the past. It is therefore critical that, as my colleague Bill McLaughlin said recently in a client meeting, companies become their own publishers via blogs and smart, focused use of social media as part of their PR toolkit.
The white paper points out that: "You can now get better mileage from your PR dollar than you can from your advertising dollar, particularly in today's new media landscape."
A combination of content creation and the right targeting to influencers, as well as the right level of listening and communicating directly with customers through targeted social media communities will yield the best results -- results that are measurable.
And despite the fact that press releases are a much-maligned element of a PR program, the white paper pointed out that they have a longer shelf life than other marketing elements and no followup use costs, like pay-per-click advertising. When you combine them with good search engine optimization and targeted links through social networking sites like Twitter, they can be very effective -- of course when they are concise and have the right messaging and payoff for the reader.
A blog post from Gail Nelson of Burrelles Luce just before Thanksgiving pointed to some good news for PR practitioners in a New York Times article about the drop off of advertising in the luxury goods market.
Though luxury brands are reducing advertising, many continue - quietly - to spend on client dinners and launch parties, which they view as directly affecting sales.
Nelson noted that "the spending on launch parties - which are believed to directly affect sales - does underscore the belief of business in the effectiveness of public relations." She went on to point out a PR Week article, In-house PR execs pull back, maintain budgets for 2009, by Chris Daniel that suggested that executives are largely maintaining their PR budgets for 2009.
Our clients are not selling luxury watches, but they are marketing large expenditure items to enterprises who have to justify every dollar spent and the potential return on the investment. They will not be swayed by a slick printed ad or even the a cleverest ad during the 2009 Super Bowl. They might be convinced by executives like themselves who not only have invested in a technology, but also have been willing to talk about it in a blog post or an article or a podcast on a company site. They also might be influenced by hearing directly from the CEO of the technology company in a speech before industry peers or a blog post describing the highlights of the piece or in an op ed in a magazine that directly addresses the pain they are facing and the potential cost-effective solution.
All of these elements are created by focused, strategic public relations. A modest PR budget targeted exactly at the audience a B2B company needs to reach, executed by internal or agency PR people who are truly knowledgeable about social media tools and techniques, can build the credibility and direct connection to potential customers faster and more cost effectively than any other marketing program.
As you are pondering all of this and planning for 2009, don't just take my word for it. Make sure you are measuring your PR and social media results and comparing them to your closest competitors. We firmly believe you will have the ammunition you need to make the right decision on where to put those focused dollars.
And then when the cheap shots about PR ring out from the journalists or the A-list bloggers, as they always seem to do with little or no provocation, you can just smile and remember that 5 foot 9 inch 180-pound (dripping wet, I'm sure) second baseman who can knock the stuffing off of the ball -- and who can beat the flashy big guys when the numbers are crunched.