The PR industry has wrestled with measurement for decades now; the integration of impressions as a viable metric – and the subsequent dismissal of the same – has intensified the focus on measurement. This was among the topics covered during a recent webinar “Closing the Gap on Tomorrow’s Public Relations Challenges” with Laura Brusca, VP of communications at Forbes and PAN Communications EVP Mark Nardone. (PAN also sponsored the webinar.)

It’s largely accepted that PR should have a significant role in organization’s revenue generation. The details of the business impact, however, vary greatly depending on several factors, among them the sector, industry sales cycle and the way an organization is structured. For instance, Nardone noted that mounting revenue pressure is pushing CMOs try more personalized sales efforts, ultimately pushing the PR industry to do the same in its own content creation. 

“There’s a strategy opportunity for us to grab as an industry. We can start looking at impacting a brand’s funnel in a very different way,” he said, emphasizing the PR industry should focus more on strategic conversion rather than its traditional reliance on awareness.   

The communications function at Forbes reports directly into the CEO while also working closely with marketing, sales and human resources, Brusca said. Members of the communications team attend weekly sales meetings and provide input on how communications can support and accelerate sales efforts. Meanwhile, the CEO focuses on
the function's critical role in messaging and storytelling. 

“Our CEO highly values communications and is always asking — are we getting out there in news? Is it the right message?” Brusca said. “We set expectations with our CEO. We don’t want to be held to impressions or hits, we want to focus on quality over quantity.”

While expectations for PR are changing, according to a survey conducted with PAN Communications and the Holmes Report, communications professionals say they don't have adequate resources to adapt to these changes. 

“You always have to remember the end goal of what the budget will do,” Brusca said. Last year, the Forbes communications team made a case for additional video equipment. They were successful by demonstrating how the content could inspire and motivate employees. “Think about how [the ask] will not only help your unit, but other units, as well.”

With new expectations also comes new skills. Yet Brusca and Nardone emphasized fundamentals like being curious, creative and willing to take risks continue to trump being an expert in a specific platform and technology. 

“Everybody talks so much about data, analytics and AI — but it’s only as good as the people that are digesting the data,” Nardone added. “How do you take a campaign that is resonating in market really well and put paid behind it? We didn’t do that five years ago and 10 years ago. The conversation is swaying so much more towards the agility our clients have today.”

He also questioned the cycle of the media treadmill, where the focus is on generating hit after hit until a particular pitch runs completely dry.

“Now we’re starting to slow our clients down,” Nardone said. “They just spent a lot of time securing really good coverage in, Forbes for example. Now, how are you going to leverage it? How are you going to extend the life of that content across social, through your sales efforts?”

The full webinar, which can be accessed below and here,  also addressed the rising influence of search, whether privacy considerations are ultimately changing consumer behavior, and the role of branded content and reports in building credibility and engagement.

At the end of the discussion, both speakers were invited to deliver Twitter-style takeaways for attendees to implement immediately.

“Take a seat at the table, be an advisor at your organization, get very close to all of the executives you work with them weekly, bi-weekly because the closer you can get to them, the better you can do your job and the better you can help them to do their jobs,” Brusca said.

“Don’t be afraid to be transparent — there are going to be failures, there are going to be successes. How do you learn from those failures, how do you continue to move those successes forward?” Nardone said. “Make sure you are strategic and addressing the business challenges you’re facing.”

The full report: "How Will You Navigate Tomorrow's PR Challenges Today?" is available for download here.