For all of its faults (hi, Omicron!), 2021 brought with it a wealth of learnings to the Cision community, from working with the media to crafting better press releases and measuring – and maximizing – PR efforts. (In fact, we could have easily expanded this list to 100 PR lessons, but we know you don’t have that kind of time. Some of us are still trying to catch up on Succession!) To help you start 2022 off with a bang, we've chosen 12 of last year’s most compelling takeaways, gleaned from 12 months of reports, analyses, webinars and expert insight. Thus, we present – in no particular order – 12 PR lessons to bring into 2022:
1. Want to establish good will with journalists? Make their jobs easier.
Among the many things we learned through the 2021 State of the Media Report: Journalists are stretched extremely thin these days – and outnumber PR pros seven to one(!). By giving them all the information they need up front (insightful data, relevant quotes, accompanying images), you’re not only saving them time, you’re giving them fewer hoops to jump through, making them more likely to cover your story. It will also put you in their good graces for future interactions. A win-win. Start with providing multimedia elements like images, videos, infographics and social media posts. Use landing pages to educate your audience, house content and direct audiences to the next steps.
2. A little homework goes a long way.
Another way to establish good will with journalists? Do your research to understand their beat and their audience. One of journalists’ pet peeves is getting pitches for something that has nothing to do with their job – it can also land you on their “block/do not call” list. It happens more often than you think: The vast majority of journalists only consider about 25% of the pitches they receive relevant to their audience.
The takeaway? Before you reach out to journalists with a pitch, channel your inner Veronica Mars and do some research to learn more about them, the types of stories they cover and their audience. Then ask yourself, “Would they care about this?” If the answer is no, move on.
3. It’s time to let go of the “us” versus “them” mentality.
As noted during the webinar MarTech Brings Marketing and Comms Together, communications teams and marketing teams need to work together if they want to be successful – this means aligning on shared goals and metrics and ensuring consistent messaging throughout all stages of the customer journey. One small step that makes a big improvement: having regular check-ins with both teams, with the goal of gaining clarity on what each team does and how you can work better together to achieve success.
4. Social listening is a critical part of the PR toolkit.
The vast majority of comms pros (87%) use insights from social listening to inform PR campaigns, according to the 2021 Global Comms Report. So while you might not be using social listening yet, there’s a good chance your competitors are. Not only does social listening enable PR teams to gain an even better understanding of their customers, competitors, industry and brand reputation, it also helps brands spot emerging trends (or crises) and act accordingly in real time.
5. ESG is more important than ever; so is how you communicate it.
According to The State of Investor Relations in the Virtual World, a survey of senior IR leaders across industries, a majority of companies are starting to invest more in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. When it comes to communicating ESG initiatives to key stakeholders and the larger community – a job that often falls under PR or corporate communications teams – transparency and authenticity are key. (For more on this topic, check out 3 Lessons for Creating ESG Messaging.)
6. Don’t discount so-called “vanity metrics” (but don’t only count them, either).
As noted during Do’s and Don’ts for Measuring and Proving Your ROI, metrics like AVE and UVPM can be used to support your ROI, but they do not tell the whole story of your impact; therefore, they should not be your KPIs. Another example, given during Making Your Metrics Matter: Building a Strategy for Impactful PR, is “likes” – while “likes” can be considered a vanity metric on their own, a little digging could reveal that the source of those could have big followings, indicating that there may be more to that number than meets the eye. (For more on which metrics to focus on, we suggest you check out our e-book, The (Ugly) Truth Behind PR's Go-To Numbers.)
7. Context and consistency are “must-have” elements of any PR measurement program.
Identifying the right PR metrics to track is only half the battle for PR teams; making sense of those metrics and deriving meaning from them is a critical next step. That’s where context and consistency come in, as discussed during Cision’s State of the Media Summit. While you might have a certain number of hits or impressions, for example, there needs to be context to generate meaning. To that end, ask yourself the following questions: How do those numbers compare to what’s been done in the past? How do they compare to competitors’ numbers? What’s the bigger picture? The answers to those questions will provide the necessary context to help inform what worked and what needs to change. Then you need to be consistent with how you’re measuring. Using the same source every time you measure will enable you to make a fair comparison.
8. PR’s seat at the table is warm.
For all the chaos that COVID-19 wrought for communications and PR pros, it also opened up an opportunity for communications teams to step up and grab their seat at the table. According to the Global Comms Report, the vast majority of communications leaders (87%) agree that the corporate C-suite has sought the counsel of communications teams more in the last year, with over half (57%) citing “the impact of COVID-19” as the most likely reason. Check out How PR Pros Can Keep Their Seat at the Table Warm to learn more.
9. Data analysis and PR are not mutually exclusive.
Findings from the 2021 Global Comms Report underscore the increasingly important role data and analytics play in PR. For example:
- 44% of comms leaders say they track extensive data about their end-user audience from their owned media efforts – nearly double the number from two years ago (23%);
- 87% of comms pros use social listening insights to inform PR campaigns. Two years ago, social listening was “barely on their radar,” according to the report; and
- 91% of comms leaders agree that “not only do PR pros have to be strong communicators, they have to be strong data analysts.”
But even as they understand its importance, “converting the data into actionable insights” remains a struggle for 1 in 2 comms leaders, and only 1 in 4 are confident in their ability to effectively measure and prove PR’s impact. Together, these findings indicate that while PR is improving with its use of analytics, there is plenty of room for growth.
10. The press release is far from dead.
Not only do journalists prefer press releases over all other content from PR pros, they rely on them for story ideas and key information when writing stories. Press releases also serve to help brands control the narrative, establish relationships with media and drive SEO. Still not convinced? Check out 5 Reasons the Press Release Still Matters.
11. Content is king, so treat multimedia like royalty.
As noted in the 2021 State of the Press Release report, including multimedia in your press release can increase engagement up to six times more than text-only press releases. Including photos, a video or other visuals with your press release can win you major points with journalists, who are hungry for multimedia elements that help bring their stories to life and drive engagement. Last year alone, the overwhelming majority (80%) included images with their pieces, followed by videos (45%), infographics (43%) and social media posts (39%). And if that’s not enough evidence that you should include multimedia content in your press releases, 1 in 5 journalists (22%) explicitly said they wish PR pros would do so. For inspiration, check out these press releases that make good use of multimedia.
12. Creating virtual experiences may be a necessity, but it’s also good business.
As the global pandemic continues and events continue to be held remotely, creating virtual experiences has become a necessity for brands. The good news is this isn’t exactly bad news. Consider the experience of kitchen and bath retailer Kohler during last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which they shared during Cision’s State of the Media Summit: Forced to adapt to an event that would now be held virtually, Kohler’s team needed to rethink their traditional event marketing efforts. With the help of Cision MultiVu, they got to work: scheduling one-on-one Zoom interviews with targeted media outlets; creating virtual booth tours; and creating virtual press packets, to name just a few tactics. The unconventional efforts paid off: Kohler received twice the media coverage the brand got the year before – and at a lower cost. To learn more about Kohler’s experience, check out the success story.
What lessons will you bring to 2022?
Need help putting these lessons into practice? From sending press releases that get results to measuring and proving the impact of PR, Cision can help.
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About Mary Lorenz
Mary Lorenz is Editorial Director at Cision and writes about best practices and thought leadership for marketing, communications and public relations professionals. She has a background in marketing, public relations and journalism and over 15 years of experience in copywriting and content strategy across a variety of platforms, industries and audiences.