The Board: A Key PR Stakeholder

Posted on March 28, 2018

By Joanna Kulesa

Did you know that PR is usually the largest recurring discretionary spend in a startup’s marketing budget?

If you’re a CEO or CMO, you do. You also know that though the economy remains hot, venture capital has tightened, meaning that a company’s image, potential and performance must be strong if it is to secure funding.

It’s a given that startup founders and top executives will always demand strong results from their PR agencies, and that the agencies will work hard to deliver them. But in today’s environment, it’s become especially essential that both parties collaborate on communicating the PR program’s value to the board.

With PR so crucial to a brand’s success, demonstrating progress to the board should be a quarterly priority. Agency teams should make a proactive effort to equip the CEO or CMO with the right information to present.

We’ve done this with clients for years, and have gained some insights into ways to address the board as a key stakeholder in the PR program. Here are four:

Choose the right metrics. “If it moves, measure it” has become an article of faith in today’s data-driven business world. In PR, analytics can tell whether a company is reaching the right audience with the right message with the most impact.

Traditional measures focused on “share of voice” – sheer quantity of media coverage compared with competitors – but boards are increasingly responding to quality measures as well. How did the company do in the publications it considers most strategic? Was the coverage in depth or just passing mentions within articles about multiple vendors? Was presence consistent across earned media, social media and content programs?

Quantity is still important, but the deeper story often lies in the quality assessment. CEOs and CMOs should work with their agencies to give that full picture.

Provide actionable insight. Data is just data unless you do something with what it tells you. As part of the analysis of PR results, company executives and the agency team should deliver further value by making recommendations to the board about any next steps to advance the program. Perhaps a content campaign to reach certain business outlets. Or a social media initiative aimed at the developer audience.

A slide on recommended actions should be included in every presentation to the board on PR.

Always tie to specific business objectives. No one – not boards, not CEOs and CMOs, not agencies – are interested in PR results for PR results’ sake. They want to know how all this effort has moved the needle for the business.

Drawing a direct connection between PR results and business results can be tricky, so it’s okay to bring in some subjective or anecdotal information where appropriate. A positive article in a valued trade publication helped the sales force get a proof-of-concept with a large customer? Tell the board!

Bring the board into PR activities. We do this routinely at Offleash, working with willing board members to, say, do interviews on behalf of the portfolio company or produce byline articles. Board members, for obvious reasons, are great advocates. Why not leverage them in PR?

Hiring a PR agency is a significant investment for a young tech company. Agencies need to join forces with their CEO and CMO clients to show the board that the investment is paying off.

Joanna Kulesa has been building successful agencies in Silicon Valley for 20 years. Her passion for outstanding client service is matched by her dedication to Offleash employees—reflected in the agency’s naming by Fortune as a Best Place to work for Camaraderie and a Best Place to Work for Women. Joanna was recently named one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Top 100 Women of Influence for 2018. Contact Joanna at joanna@offleashpr.com.