Views: Showing the value of public relations and communications

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A few years ago, the CEO of a large computer chip company contacted us for assistance, write Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D. (pictured left), and Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D. (pictured right). He had heard about our methodology to show the value and wanted the public relations and communications team to begin measuring the success of their major initiatives, including the financial ROI. He explained that when he asks the teams how their work affects the company’s share price or sales growth, they respond by reporting how many interviews were conducted, how many articles were written, how many times the company was mentioned, or how many impressions they’ve received.

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The challenge

 “These are all interesting measures, but they don’t clearly connect to the company’s bottom line,” he emphasized. He wanted the team to use a credible process to deliver that data. “Maybe this process will do it,” he added. We conducted a two-day workshop to teach them how to do it.

They were not so excited about their CEO’s request because it represented a change and a challenge for them. Most professionals resist showing the value at this level because they don’t fully understand it. This request is not unusual. Based on our experiences working with senior leaders, many, if not most, would like to see this type of data from all functions. In this case, they had no choice but to step up to the challenge. 

About six months later, they sent us two studies they had conducted connecting PR programs to the share price and thanked us for this methodology. 

This article explains the process that can apply to any project, activity, or event. The process is based on a logic model, has been put into practice with thousands of people globally, and is presented in a newly published book, Show the Value of What You Do: Measuring and Achieving Success in Any Endeavor*.

Success defined

The first level of success is Reaction, how people react to the project. If they don’t react favorably, the project will probably not be successful. The second level is what the people involved in the project need to learn to be successful. Without Learning, there will be no success with the project. The third level is Application, as participants apply what they have learned to make the project successful. If application doesn’t occur, the project is a failure. 

The next level is Impact, which is the consequence of application. Impact measures are often already in your database systems. Impact is important. For the PR team, impact could be market share, sales growth, new accounts, customer loyalty, talent attraction, stock price, image, reputation, and brand. For an internal communication team, impact may be productivity, quality of work, efficiency, time savings, teamwork, job engagement, job satisfaction, retention, collaboration, conflicts, and stress. 

Finally, the fifth level is ROI (return on investment), which compares the monetary benefits of the project to the cost of the project. We suggest two calculations; ROI expressed as a percentage and cost-benefit ratio. ROI is a business term that has been used for about 400 years. Cost-benefit analysis is a simple concept that has been around for the past ten centuries as governments used cost-benefit analysis to tackle projects. 

These five levels of success define value. The individuals who fund, support, or sponsor a project want to see impact and sometimes ROI, which answers the question, “Is it worth it?”

The process

The process of measuring success, analyzing data, and leveraging results follows six steps of the Show the Value process. 

Step 1: Why? Start with impact 

Before beginning a project, this question clarifies the impact you want from the project. The focus is not on aspirations, actions, activities, or behaviors. Instead, it’s one or more important impact measures that your project will improve. 

Step 2: How? Select the right solution

Address the critical question, “Is this the right solution to influence the impact measure?” To find the right solution, consider what is working and what needs to change.

Step 3: What? Expect success with objectives

Success does not occur until the impact is delivered. Objectives for reaction, learning, application, and impact are developed and shared with others involved in the project, so they will know what to do to make the project successful. 

Step 4: How much? Collect data along the way

Capture the data on the first four levels of success, demonstrating the evolution of the success of the project. 

Step 5: What’s it worth? Analyze the data

To prove the value, sort out the effects of the project on the impact data, recognizing that not all the improvement is caused by this project. To show if it was worth it requires you to convert the impact to a monetary value and calculate the project’s costs. Using these two numbers, you can then calculate the ROI, which will tell you if the project is worth its investment. 

Step 6: So what? Leverage the results

Leverage the results for maximum benefit for you, your project, and your organization. The goal is always to improve the project to make it better. Use the results to gain support, commitment, influence, and funding. 

Next steps 

Following the six steps will provide you with credible answers to questions frequently asked about your work: Why? How? What? How much? What’s it worth? and So what? Using these steps to deliver value changes your thinking. The successes of the PR and communications team at the computer chip company can be replicated in any organization.

Do your leaders see your projects as a cost or an investment? If they perceive it as a cost, they can easily trim it or eliminate it, in the worst case. If it’s an investment, the project may be protected and supported. Leaders may actually invest more. 

Don’t wait for the value request for particular projects. Be proactive and provide your leaders with meaningful data to help them see the value in their investments in your project.

Reference:

*Phillips, Patricia Pulliam, and Jack J. Phillips. Show the Value of What You Do: Measuring and Achieving Success in Any Endeavor. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2022.

About the Authors

Patti P. Phillips, Ph.D., is a consultant and researcher, and coauthor of Show the Value of What You Do. Her workshops and conference presentations inspire audiences to align their work with outcomes that matter. She has been recognized for her thought-leadership by organizations such as the Association for Talent Development, Center for Talent Reporting, and the Thinkers50 Marshall Goldsmith Achievement for Coaching. She has written or contributed to over 50 books describing how individuals can demonstrate the value of their work. 

Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D., is coauthor of Show the Value of What You Do and an award-winning thought leader in the field of talent development. As a teacher, consultant, and coach, he helps individuals show the value of their work in all types of organizations. He has taught his proprietary methodology to over 50,000 professionals and managers in over 70 countries. He is a global keynote speaker and has written over 100 hundred books, all focused on the importance of showing the value of the work.