I’ve loved communications from the moment I set foot in the industry. Ten years ago, I got my first taste when researching television journalists and learning about their specific beats (we called them beats then). Get our brand on TV? See our name splashed across a popular news segment? Have the local news anchor in my personal contacts? I’ll be the hero of the organization! Everyone loved the mentions, the awareness and the potential reach reports, but over time, that started to dwindle.
The media began a transformation, one that made it much harder for them to reach, on new mediums we had to learn (hello, Twitter!). This left my executives squinting at me wondering what all my efforts were truly worth. Over time, the feeling grew inside of me that what I was doing might not be enough.
Fortunately for me, my role has always been embedded in the Marketing department, a position I don’t take for granted after hearing from my peers about the odd places their communications team may be structured within their organizations: under the CFO (finance?!), directly under the CEO (sounds like a lot of pressure!) or unintegrated, left alone to talk to themselves in a silo, an echo chamber of loneliness.
Over the years, I learned about marketing tactics that I implemented to augment my PR efforts. I learned about social media, about search engine optimization, about email marketing, about remarketing, about lead generation and funnels and demand generation and content marketing and events and graphic design.
Boy, was it overwhelming. But boy, did it prepare me for the future that came more rapidly than I think most of the industry foresaw.
I found myself not only managing media relations, but using other marketing tactics to reach our target audiences. I dealt with not only journalists, but bloggers (before it became influencer marketing), clients and prospects. I took hours upon days upon weeks upon months finding the right tools to identify key audiences I wanted to target, then another set of tools to gather intel on them, then another set of tools to manage interacting with them via email or social media, then another set of tools to distribute content such as press releases, and yet six other tools to measure everything I was doing. I kid you not, I had an excel spreadsheet of 172 passwords.
All the while, I was manually doing this, grinding and committing extra hours to try to make an impact. I knew it was working, but it wasn’t working fast enough.
I wasn’t able to quickly gather analytics, or correlate my activities to revenue. I stared in jealousy at my marketing teammates who beamed when they told the CMO that they were able to contribute to a couple million dollars in sales for the company last quarter.
How could I be that hero?
One day, after manually tracking my work and interactions in Excel, something happened. A few weeks prior, I had received an angry tweet from a client that stated (in all caps) they’d had a terrible experience and were going to break their service contract. Like a hawk, I swept in and within 60 seconds got the client offline, on the phone, and in touch with someone who could help. Later that day, they shared a new message: “Thanks so much to Stacey. If she hadn’t stepped in, I would have walked away from the company and gone to a competitor.”
This happened several times. I logged every activity and started following up on the accounts in Salesforce. I couldn’t believe what I saw. After the interactions, the clients renewed their business with us.
As I totaled the renewal value of the clients’ contracts, I discovered that in six months, I had retained a quarter of a million dollars in business — 250,000 smackeroos. Floored, I took the numbers to the CMO, and we both beamed together. I was on to something.
Fast forward to today, and the lessons I’ve learned from trying and testing tools, creating correlations and voraciously keeping up with trends in technology and digital media told me that we’d be here one day.
Years of studying the media and the evolution of the consumer and what defines influence told me that we’d need a smarter, faster and better way to prove the worth of our communications departments.
This is precisely why I’m so passionate about the opportunities afforded by the convergence of earned, paid and owned media. When I integrated earned media with paid, we reached more eyeballs and got more leads. When we provided thought leadership content to the leads in the pipeline, it helped close sales. When we produced hyper-targeted, quality owned media, it made it easier for my team to garner earned media. When I executed a campaign that included earned, paid and owned media, we blew away the competition.
It’s not a secret anymore – it’s the norm in today’s communications landscape. Success is all about mastering the media mix.
While speaking at a conference earlier this year, a fellow communications professional asked how they could possibly be expected to keep up with this and change their roles to accommodate. I told them to take it as a challenge, and bring it on.
Higher expectations aren’t a bad thing. It allows us to learn, to grow, to evolve, and most importantly make an impact. Yes, it can be tough. But there are so many inspirational PR professionals out there that have done it, and continue to drive our industry forward. Don’t believe me? Check out Gini Dietrich, Shonali Burke, or Michael Smart. Look at what agencies like Geben Communication all the way up to Edelman are doing. This convergence is everywhere – and the smartest practitioners have found the right tools and technology to facilitate stronger relationships and analyze the real impact (in dollars) that communications can have on a brand.
As consumer trust in brands continues to plummet and our beloved channels such as earned start taking the driver’s seat again (as it once was, not so long ago) – will you join me, accept the challenge, master the mix and pivot to an integrated, data-based mindset?
I think Frank Strong said it best: “PR has evolved into something vastly greater than itself,” and without mastering the tools and techniques that make our roles more relevant, we’ll continue to toss out disconnected campaigns and fail to effectively drive our audiences to action.
The only way to successfully lead your organization and drive the industry forward depends on approaching communication’s full lifecycle. You won’t be able to do that, though, unless you have a strong foundation to build your brand’s communications on.
Download our brand new guide Master the Mix: Amplify Your Campaign Results With Earned Media for the five pillars that will help you develop and demonstrate your communications’ value.
Author Stacey Miller is the director of communications at Cision, where she oversees the company’s media, analyst and influencer relations strategies as well as social media and internal communication. A 10-year veteran of the company, Stacey pioneered a data-based storytelling approach and isn’t afraid to dig deep into the analytics. Follow her @staceylamiller.
1 Comments on Blog Post Title
Stacey, first of all thank you for the shoutout (very belatedly!). Second of all, it was absolutely fascinating to learn some of your story. I love how you were able to quantify your contributions to the company in such a compelling way – bravo!
Like you said, it’s not really that hard, once you figure out what to do, and how to do it. But getting there can be quite intimidating, so I do understand when PR pros feel like giving up. But like you, I really hope they don’t. Because it’s a brand new world out there, and for the most part, it’s so exciting.