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Top Marketing Execs Call PR an ‘Underutilized Strategy’

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It’s nice to have the occasional research project confirm the value of the work you do, isn’t it?

While inbound marketing agency PR 20/20‘s 2014 Marketing Score Report might seem self-interested, it provides us with a glimpse inside the thought processes of dozens of top-level execs as they rate their own performances over the past year.

Here’s the big takeaway: survey participants were least satisfied with their own performances on the PR front–and they know that they need to improve. What are their major areas of concern? You guessed it: content and media relations.

We recently spoke to PR 20/20 CEO Paul Roetzer to get his take on the results.

First, a breakdown of survey participants:

  • 57% = founder/owner/partner
  • 18% = marketing manager/director
  • 11% = other
  • 8% = senior executive
  • 6% = sales manager/director

So this all comes from the top.

Why do you think execs are so dissatisfied with their own PR and content marketing efforts?

The reason that six out of the 10 lowest rated factors are found in the content marketing section: while it’s an enormous and growing trend, the reality is that the majority of businesses still struggle to build content strategies and consistently publish high quality content.

ContentMktg

Blogging is the highest rated of the 13 content marketing factors, but even that area has a relatively weak rating. Very few organizations are successfully creating and distributing videos, case studies, ebooks, original research/reports, mobile apps or podcasts.

How are they missing out?

The vast majority of businesses are not proactively tapping into existing opportunities to strengthen communications and relationships with external audiences. Primarily, they aren’t satisfied with their own media presence.

Extremely low rankings for online (3.2/10) and offline (2.2/10) media coverage are the byproducts of these weak media relations strategies.

Participants also reported on their own budgets. How closely are conservative budgets tied to dissatisfaction on the PR front?

Very closely. Businesses that identified marketing budgets as conservative (<5% of revenue) scored their own PR results at 24%. Meanwhile, businesses with moderately aggressive budgets (15-20% of revenue) have an average PR section score of 35%, which is nearly 1.5 times the conservative budget sample.

Budget

Why do you think that is?

One theory is that PR success tends to come from a long-term commitment to strengthening communications and relationships. This requires budget, expertise and patience.

Organizations with limited resources likely concentrate on marketing strategies that will have the greatest short-term returns, and they often forego PR.

Why do these orgs call PR “underutilized”, and what can they do to remedy the situation?

The highest-rated factors in the PR field were “network offline” and “attend industry shows”, but most organizations do these things even if they don’t have a dedicated team and/or strategy. Most organizations simply aren’t making strong efforts to build their brands via PR. Check out these ratings (a score under 5 is considered a “weakness”):

  • Use original content to fuel media opportunities (3.1)
  • Monitor mentions/placements (3.0)
  • Engage with media, bloggers, analysts on social (2.9)
  • Secure guest article, blog opportunities (2.4)
  • Pursue editorial opportunities (2.1)
  • Pitch feature stories (2.0)

In order to reverse this trend, businesses need to accept that PR is a core component of their strategy.

What do you make of the gap between performance and potential?

As related technologies and consumer behaviors change at faster speeds, marketers are largely underprepared and underperforming despite the fact that the demand for their skills is greater than ever before.

Even worse than a lack of training is a lack of desire to evolve, which plagues many PR traditionalists on both the client and agency sides.

What role, then, does the adoption of new technologies play in these rankings?

It’s a significant indicator of the potential for success. Consider these findings:

  • Those who scored high in internal social networking have an average internal communications strength rating of 8.2, or 1.3 times the average rate of all others. They also have have stronger corporate cultures , employee relationships, and employee retention rates.
  • High performers in the revenue growth category also have higher average marketing technology utilization scores than others.

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What sorts of companies gave their own blogging efforts high rankings?

Here are some characteristics of high-performing blogging businesses:

  • They’re new: 84% were founded after 1996
  • They’re growing: 35% had revenue growth over 20%
  • Many are not consumer-facing: 56% of blogging high performers are B2B companies, 7% are B2C and 37% are both B2B and B2C.

Blogging also appears to be a catalyst for more comprehensive and effective content marketing programs. Blogging high performers have an average content marketing section score of 46%, 2.2x the 21% average of all others.

The conclusion is fairly simple: the marketing execs who participated in the survey aren’t satisfied with their own PR efforts, and they understand that both creating and placing original content will only grow more important.

Sounds like they’re ready for a pitch.

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