Cracking the C-suite
The ultimate guide to getting board-level buy-in for your PR budget
In a rapidly evolving business landscape where uncertainty still prevails, it is more important than ever for companies to communicate with their target audiences in a transparent and compelling manner.
To get this right, you need a PR strategy that helps you cut through the noise, by delivering messaging that is relevant and meaningful to your core audience.
But in a time where budgets are being squeezed, and tangible ROI is expected from the outset, it can be challenging to get a PR budget approved by the board or C-suite.
This is compounded by the fact that PR success metrics are often interpreted as being esoteric, especially when compared to other marketing functions like sales and advertising.
More often than not, financial performance trumps all other metrics when it comes to the C-suite. In fact, more than half of all CEOs (58%) surveyed by PR Moment said that they prioritize financial performance over company reputation (13%) and talent management (13%).
The argument that can be made right from the outset is that a company’s reputation is inextricably tied to financial performance, and that PR should therefore be seen as a fundamental consideration to any corporate budget.
Admittedly, quantifying the true value of PR is still not an exact science, and that will always lead to doubts from financial decision makers. In our experience working with a wide range of businesses across numerous industries, there are authentic and engaging ways to get buy-in from the top.
This guide outlines the key steps and questions to consider before making the PR pitch to the C-suite.
PR Director / Partner, Berkeley Communications
Our six steps for PR sign-off success
Create a plan and link it to business objectives
Sounds obvious, right? But, according to a recent report, less than half of B2B businesses have a communications plan in place, even though those with a plan accelerate their business goals faster. However, blindly setting out on a mission to ‘do some PR’ will leave the business questioning your aims and you battling each month to protect your budget. Writing a communications plan and aligning it with the business doesn’t have to be long or complex – a few well-defined areas of focus can make all the difference.
Knowledge is as important as numbers
A PR update in a board meeting will often consist of a coverage book and some key metrics, such as volume, reach and share of voice. While these things are all important, adding insight to explain how this relates back to the business, what value media coverage brings and how it can reach your target customer will all help you fight your corner. Insights gained through PR – like data about your competitors, industry and how the media and customers perceive you – can be used across the entire business, not only in communications.
Be adaptable and agile
Planning is essential but adaptability and agility are crucial. There is no point getting buy-in, following a plan and then presenting back at the end of a quarter only to find that wider business goals have changed. Regular meetings with the board will ensure that any planned activity remains relevant and in line with how the business is evolving. That way you can tailor plans accordingly and show the value of PR first-hand, to support changing company initiatives and aspirations.
PR might not always be the answer
Yes, I really just said that. Taking a step back and looking at where marketing budgets are best spent is especially relevant to companies who are looking to take their first foray into PR. For those companies, spend on PR could constitute a large part of their marketing budget to make it a reality. You might think PR is what you need, but another discipline such as content marketing, lead generation or SEO may be more suitable.
Build your story
Every business has a story to tell – it’s just a case of communicating it in the most compelling and engaging way. Putting brand storytelling at the heart of your PR strategy will help bring campaigns to life and position your company, and what you stand for, in a way which resonates and is relatable to your audience. A communications campaign built on this approach will be far more successful than relying on product updates and win announcements to solely fuel your content creation.
Get the C-suite involved in storytelling
An effective way of getting the board onside with your communications approach is to involve them in its creation. Whether you are looking to make your message more memorable, build a compelling brand story, or talk about your business plans or turnaround, storytelling is a good way to engage audiences; both internally and outside of your organisation. Hold a messaging workshop to gather the views of the C-suite and then build your strategy around it. This process will make everyone feel more accountable, and ultimately more invested in making it work.
Don’t get caught out by common questions from the C-suite
Before approaching the board, there are a number of key questions you will need to be able to answer to get budgets signed off and ideas across the line.
Why would I spend on PR over other marketing activities?
PR is a crucial part of the marketing mix. It’s the only discipline to generate third party endorsement for a business and its products, and when carried out successfully, it will generate valuable coverage from trusted media experts.
It does, however, work best when integrated within the marketing mix. To feed the media, your PR team will create an abundance of business stories and content, including by-lines, case studies, white papers, reports, videos etc, all of which can fuel your marketing campaigns and be used across your entire organisation. It’s also worth noting that PR can help your marketing activity land more effectively by educating customers and building trust around your brand.
What do I get for my PR Spend?
A modern PR agency should be able to offer you great value for money as it can create your story, tell it to the media, write and design your website, run a content marketing programme, shoot and edit a video, and run your social media channels all under one roof. Clear and transparent planning linked to objectives will make it easy to understand where the money is being spent and why.
Do our target customers actually read the media?
The way we consume news and information is constantly evolving. It is up to your PR team to tell your story to your audience through the right channels. This could be niche trade titles or national media, online news hubs and specialist media websites. What works for one company might not be right for another. Agreeing a tiered media list from the outset will ensure any campaign focusses on generating coverage in the places where your customers and prospects get their daily news fix or industry insights.
Can PR provide leads?
In short, yes! The secret is in the story you are telling. Get that part right and the leads will follow. A recent PR story we released for one of our clients, UiPath, resulted in a piece of coverage in the Irish Times, but also importantly 11 new business leads. But it’s not just national PR coverage that will get the leads flowing, creating content plans across lots of different channels means your story is seen by customers and prospects wherever they may be.
PR is long term, but what if I need quick results?
While brand awareness is a part of PR that can take some time to build, any programme should be multi-faceted.
All of our PR programmes start off with a plan that aligns to your business goals. This will enable us to get you in front of key customers fast, while helping you reach a broader audience over time. We’ll make sure you have quick wins to report back to your board, building momentum as we go.
What ROI can PR bring to my business?
The best way to show ROI is to build a PR strategy around your business goals. If you can show that PR is having a direct impact on the business, then that’s the ROI battle won. When we work with clients, our first question is always ‘what are you trying to achieve?’. If the answer is brand awareness, or (re)building your company’s reputation, then a hardworking press office is a great solution. But if you are measured by driving or converting leads, that is less likely to be the case. Taking time to ask the right questions is likely to make your boardroom conversations much easier to navigate.
What is the best way to measure PR success?
Although there is no magic metric to gauge success, this question is becoming easier to answer as the PR landscape evolves. PR is typically measured through audience reach and share of voice metrics. However, it can also deliver valuable insights such as competitor and industry data, as well as tell you how the media and your customers perceive you. All of which is vital information for the C-Suite and can be used across the entire business, helping to demonstrate the value of PR.
Get ready to take your PR plan to the board
Whatever your size or challenge, getting PR backing from the board doesn’t need to be a headache. Building a communications strategy based on your business goals, adding insight, involving your C-suite from the start, and embedding that strategy into the day-to-day are just some of the ways to ensure your communications deliver success.