What PR metrics do the C-suite in India want?

That the PR function has never been more crucial for a company and its reputation, is something no one debates in the post-truth world. But there still remains a gap between the impact of PR and proving it to the C-suite.

PR professionals still find it very difficult to shift away from AVEs and clip counts as a basic measure of success.

Karan Bhandari believes vanity metrics like shares need a rehaul

Karan Bhandari, EVP, Integrated Media Strategy, Weber Shandwick India admits that with the CEO it’s still the old school thought of “Print main kahan kahan aya?”

Bhandari, however, also believes, "It’s not just the CEO, it's largely due to the majority in the system; PR firms included."

Vikram Kharvi, vice president (Start Up, B2B and Tech), Adfactors PR, agrees with this saying bluntly, "Change will come when corporate communicators gather enough courage to justify objective based coverage and not demand volumes of coverage. The change will come when we move the discussion from our own industry conferences to the board rooms of the companies."

Kharvi asks, "How will a CEO understand when he is never made to understand the worth of PR? There are few corporate communicators who truly understand the value of PR and effectively communicate that upwards, but sadly there are very few such professionals."

What does the C-suite want then from PR metrics?

While there seems to be no getting away from AVEs anytime soon, PR practitioners in India do believe that there is a slow but sure change taking place in the attitude to and expectations from PR in the corner office.

PR for CEOs requires you to be a samurai and a poet.

Shipra Singh, technology practice lead, India & branch Head, Mumbai, for Ruder Finn Asia points to a changing approach from the C-suite saying that, "Businesses are moving beyond the notional value of AVE and volumes to the business value of a program. That frontpage story is still a delight, but that too has to have a purpose."

Singh says that she is frequently part of discussions with the marketing team of a brand discussing campaigns with a PR focus that can add to the bottom line, " There is respect and value in that educative piece in language media that established the brand connect with an average consumer in Varanasi, and that great technical story in trade media that helped evangelise the developer audience!"

Bhandari explains why the C-suite must move away from a print coverage lens, "Scampering for print coverage potentially jeopardises your organization, just because you aren’t telling your story online doesn’t mean others aren’t talking about you. Worst case one has stories which bring nothing but nuisance and pain; a best case there are stories worth telling but they are hidden well away from page #1 on search engines; meaning there’s low to no chance of discovery!"

Some of the CEOs PRmoment India spoke to even say that online metrics such as SEO and SEM are a marketing function and not a PR function.

Bhandari disagrees with this view saying, " If you have an online reputational issue you will call your communication expert and not the marketing team. ORM is not just about the right keywords and rankings, it's also about managing the perception online."

Kharvi says Insight is the new PR currency

Kharvi elaborates on this further sharing that, "A CEO is least interested in PR metrics derived from SEO or SEM, he is more concerned about the business as he spends sleepless nights on issues that might have a direct impact on his business. Instead of a direct PR metric, he would be interested in the communications team’s capability to anticipate inevitable obstacles or anticipate potential reputational problems."

Suggested PR Metrics for the C-suite 

Kharvi says that he firmly believes that, "At an overall corporate level or a brand level, PR measurement can be aligned to marketing goals and business objectives. A recent Millward Brown report demonstrated how the share of digital voice directly impacts on your market share growth. We can look at SoV as a key metric."

Kharvi also recommends that "For a specific campaign or an activity, pre-decided objectives, a maximum of 3,  can be used as a parameter to judge the PR success of the campaign."

Singh says that the actions and decisions of the CEO must be justifiable and that any credible PR partner needs to offer that justification. Singh suggests a checklist of metrics that the C-suite should be provided that includes examining if the brand's 'Share of Voice' and 'Share of Ink' is growing in the message category that is key to the business.

Singh also advises being conscious of whether the PR strategy, "Has been able to deliver in terms of business uptake, change in sentiment and building stickiness towards the brand."

Ashish Jalan, director & CEO, Concept PR says, "Consider the PESO model( Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) of PR as the model for a holistic approach for execution, measuring the services by SOV, the number of clips, AVE or Google analytics, all become relevant for measurement in its entirety."

Voice-based search 

Another metric that is now coming into play, especially for younger audiences in tier 2 and 3 cities in India, is voice-based search. Kharvi emphasises that "About 28% of search queries in India are done by voice with Hindi leading the search volume, followed by Tamil, Marathi and Bengali."

Kharvi says this is happening because this young, often non-metro audience is not that expert in typing search queries. Kharvi gives the example of ‘Ryan Toys reviews’. 

He explains that "Children in the age group of 5-7 years old, who has access to the internet and gadgets discover Ryan themselves and log on to his channel mostly through voice search. The percentage of views Ryan gets from India is significant."