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By Leta Soza September 20, 2016 Reading time: 6 minutes


As the Director of PR Engineering at AirPR, I listen to the voice of our customers every single day and let me tell you, they are an endless source of wisdom and insight!

We count ourselves lucky to work with fascinating companies in a wide range of industries. Each is doing super compelling work yet when it comes to their PR strategies, I consistently hear the same fears voiced over and over again.

AirPR customers are most assuredly a crew of earlier adopters in the world of PRTech, but if early adopters are wrestling with these realities, that provides a very clear barometer for how the rest of the PR industry is thinking.

Over the next three days, we’ll be tackling three of the most prominent public relations myths. These deeply rooted notions are holding an entire industry back from being heralded as a driving force of effective communication, sound strategy, and profit.

PR professionals are the most untapped resource within an organization, so let’s make sure they are thought of as major assets by letting go of some of the most damning ways of thinking.

The time has come to blow up some of the longest running PR myths. Starting with what I think is the biggest roadblock keeping many PR professionals from securing a seat at the table in business discussions…

Myth #1: It’s not ok to fail

I am constantly amazed at how terrified PR pros are of admitting that their work came up short or didn’t go as planned. Especially when you consider other functions, like Marketing, who live and die by conducting tests and learning from results.

Now, I’m smart enough to know this fear of failure is actually fear of retribution. PR always want to deliver good news because if they don’t, there is a real concern that senior leaders are going to pitch a fit and say PR isn’t doing its job. But reporting what didn’t work is just as, if not more, important than spotlighting what did go well.

PR doesn’t like being the bearer of “bad” news, but often times the biggest opportunities for learning and creative optimization lie in excavating past PR decisions and being transparent about findings.

Senior leaders will likely feel far more confident in their investments in PR if they see you’re doing your due diligence to learn and iterate from the work you have done. If customer success has taught me anything it’s that transparency is key to maintaining trust and confidence.

It’s time for PR to embrace failure as a learning opportunity. And there will alway be more failures than successes, so why not start now?

To that end, I’d like to propose a new paradigm which I am calling: The Scientific Method for PR. Not only will this approach allow PR pros to learn and grow, it puts PR squarely in the driver’s seat.

During every step of this process there are learnings to uncover, creative avenues to traverse, and great work to be executed. The best part? This is a self perpetuating cycle of awesomeness!

Here’s how it works:

The Scientific Method for PR

And here it is in action:

Observation

  • Inbound lead gen is down 15% since the last quarter and there is a need to increase the volume of prospects at the top of our sales funnel.

Hypothesis

  • To drive traffic and engagement on site, PR will seed a thought leadership piece from the CEO on an important industry trend. They will also pitch unique data sets from a recent report to a select group of media outlets who specifically reach their target audience and work with their content team to craft a blog post showcasing insights derived from one specific data set.

Prediction

  • Input: Thought leadership
  • Measure of Success: Narrative spread via social amplification
  • Input: Personalized media pitches with multimedia assets
  • Measure of Success: 2 placements in target media outlets with links back to company website + traffic back to site
  • Input: Owned media post with data visualizations
  • Measure of Success: Content consumption and engagement with blog CTA

Experiment

  • Execute, execute, execute.

Conclusion

  • The senior leader’s thought leadership piece got little to no traction organically.
  • Media pitches secured coverage which featured an informative flowchart as well as 3 key messages. Tools like Google Analytics and AirPR Analyst, showed 75 people driven to the site as a result of this coverage.
  • Blog did not perform until it was blasted out to email subscribers and posted to social. Three requests for a demo were received from a form on the blog homepage once this occurred.

The last step in the The Scientific Method for PR is communicating your results and making it clear what you’re going to do next based on the signals and observations made along the way.

So the thought leadership piece didn’t hit. Maybe narrative spread would grow with a paid push led by the social team. Hey, look! New hypothesis to test and inputs to use!

Ok, so blog content is gravy, but clearly it needs to be coupled with a strategic push via email and social if we want it to fly high. Let’s be sure that’s a part of the plan from the get go from here out.

See how fun and enlightening “failure” can be? 🙂

In my heart of hearts, I simply want PR pros to start being more comfortable with the uncomfortable. It’s not fun to say your work didn’t pan out as planned, but that doesn’t mean you should sweep it under a rug and never look at it again. There’s SO MUCH to be learned every time you get up to bat and no effort is a wasted one if you simply ask yourself, “what did I learn here and how would I do this differently to get me closer to where I want to be?”.

Embracing failure is really a commitment to learning. And at the end of the day, if PR really wants to continue to do their best work, being ok with failure has to be a part of the equation.

Got another way to help PR get comfortable in the uncomfortable? Please share!

Tomorrow: Myth #2 Once the story is published, your work is done.

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