Feb 12, 2019 / in Executive Insights

Editor's Note: The post was first published on Earned Media Rising

Taking a break from their responsibilities as 2019 PRWeek Awards judges, this group of accomplished executives shared their perspectives on measuring the business impact of PR, aligning comms strategy with marketing, and where they see the industry going in the next five years.

The video features Matt Harrington, global COO, Edelman; Alicia Thompson, VP, communications, Edible Arrangements; Daniel Martinez, EVP, brand and entertainment marketing, PMK-BNC; Curtis Sparrer, principal, Bospar; Stephanie Smirnov, EVP, global corporate communications, Scholastic; and Megan Driscoll, CEO and founder, EvolveMKD.

Watch the video, or read the transcript below:

Matt Harrington, Global COO, Edelman: "So I think both the challenge and the opportunity for our industry at the moment is really proving ROI. And so there's a greater emphasis now to, when setting up programming, set up metrics that can be genuine metrics against which we can judge success. In a perfect world, it's partnering with our marketing department of the clients based on the data that they can pull at retail, or wherever it might be, so that we're able to see what pull through might be." 

Alicia Thompson, VP, Communications, Edible Arrangements: "As a retailer, the way we measure results from a communications perspective is by always inserting codes in the media opportunities that we take advantage of so that we can then track how consumers are coming to our website and making purchases. And for us, that's much easier to sell that into the C-suite, because we actually have a measurable tool to direct them and show them how public relations is having an impact on the bottom line." 

Daniel Martinez, EVP, Brand and Entertainment Marketing, PMK-BNC: "Looking at data in a way that is not just about numbers on a spreadsheet. So understanding that each data point that we have is a moment in time with a consumer. The way most of our clients are successful is when they look at data as something that is related to an individual person and a consumer and in how that moment has affected them." 

Curtis Sparrer, Principal, Bospar: "In the tech sector, measuring business results from PR is a little different than others. Tech companies use this for investors. And so investors will say, well, I saw this story in TechCrunch. Other ways of saying this is in customer acquisition. Many of our companies, our clients find their customers are coming as a direct result of news media. In the tech sector, we're seeing a 1 to 1 ratio." 

Aligning Comms Strategy With Marketing

Stephanie Smirnov, EVP, Global Corporate Communications, Scholastic: "In my case, working on the client side, my company is comprised of five different business units who operate very independently. So the opportunity for the communications function is actually to be the connective tissue. So a lot of times, what we're doing as a team is we are looking at opportunities across all the disparate parts of the business so we can not only align ourselves with the individual marketing needs of a division, we can also look to see, how can we elevate all of that up into something that is actually going to help build and advance our corporate priorities as a corporate brand?" 

Megan Driscoll, CEO and Founder, EvolveMKD: "There really isn't a client we have at EvolveMKD that the communications component isn't fully integrated into the overall marketing plan. I think nothing happens in a vacuum anymore, including how consumers intake information. So you're really doing a client a disservice if you're not truly recommending that all of the marketing plans and channels be integrated together." 

Looking Ahead Five Years in Communications

Alicia Thompson: "The biggest change that I see in our industry is one that's actually already underway – and I think it's just going to continue to amplify – is the importance of analytics and being able to show measurable results to the C-suite. For my CEO, a great Wall Street Journal article is only a small piece of the pie. He wants to then see how we can convert that to drive awareness for the brand and traffic into the stores. And the only way we can do that is through measurable analytics." 

Curtis Sparrer: "Coming from Silicon Valley, we know that artificial intelligence is going to be changing the industry in a big way. And we see that, especially in analytics. Right now, you cannot get the kind of understanding of analytics that artificial intelligence will be able to provide. So that will probably be the biggest way that PR will change in the next five years." 

Megan Driscoll: "The lines are going to continue to blur. I also think the definition of public relations is going to change dramatically. I think we're already seeing that now. A lot of our clients tap into us for things that, really, technically aren't PR. But they are reputation management. They are creating content. They are getting thought leadership out there. So truly, I think the future for public relations  –  the sky's the limit. Because I think as the definition gets broader, if you're a talented strategic communications professional, there's going to be a lot of opportunity." 

Daniel Martinez: "The linear approach to how a campaign reaches the market just doesn't exist anymore. You look at how a single piece of content on social media can kick off an entire campaign that starts from social, that leads to something that goes to viral, and then becomes a whole media campaign. And then, ultimately, could then inform above the line creative as well. Within the profession, you're going to have to be adjustable. You're going to have to be nimble. You're going to have to be able to respond quickly on how the consumer is moving the message across for you and making sure that you're getting your message in the way that resonates." 

Matt Harrington: "In the next five years, there's going to deliver change that's a continuation of what we've seen in the past five years. And that is continued implosion of the traditional media world. Media is not going away. It's just going to continue to evolve. And so we, as public relations practitioners, need to go where the puck is going, if you will. Earned media, I believe, is incredibly important. It's just taking different forms. And social is very much a big piece of that. Storytelling is the core of all of it though." 

Stephanie Smirnov: "It strikes me that we have done so much work as an industry to integrate diverse skill sets into what we do. As the marketing landscape changes, so do we. So I've seen this on the client side and on the agency side, where we have been bringing more and more different kinds of talent into the mix. 

What I see more so than ever, though, is there's no substitute for a powerful earned idea. And I think that the more that agencies become integrated communications agencies, the more that we start to take on advertising at its own game, the more important it will be that we still do best what we uniquely can do, which is come up with a true PR idea that will earn attention on its own. And I think that's true now, and it's going to be true in five years. I think it'll be true in 15 years." 

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