5 Reasons Why This Metric is the Future of Public Relations

The measure of a brand's reputation has changed significantly. Here's what you should look out for.

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By Sarah Evans

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The practice of public relations is an ever-evolving profession due to constant changes, rules, regulations and best practices across various media and mediums. A brand's reputation was once measured by the ability to secure positive sentiment, "above the fold" in print newspapers is no longer a single validating source. What does remain is an opportunity to reach stakeholders with the most relevant messages possible.

Inherent to positive public image are four quadrants: trust, awareness, authority and credibility. These are the fundamentals of a brand's reputation and ability to connect with key audiences. However, digging deeper into strategic communications and planning is more than meets the eye. There are many great resources for building strong PR campaigns, but it takes a larger "work back" to get to the point where you're effectively identifying what PR campaigns should be brought to life.

As the CEO of a strategic communications agency, we use a combination of data, analysis and "human" expertise to go beyond traditional reputation points and look at what we call "Reputation+."

At a high level, Reputation+ is whether or not a brand is doing what it said it would do, growing relationships with key stakeholders and creating earned media opportunities and positivity in the four quadrants mentioned above.

"Reputation+" incorporates the following:

  • Key Messaging & Narrative Strength
  • An SEO Presence
  • Competitor communications analysis
  • Stakeholder awareness
  • Narrative and threat intelligence (crisis communications)
  • Trust and transparency
  • Combined earned, owned and social reach and resonance

Why does it matter?

Related: Facing a PR Nightmare? Here's What to Look for in a PR Firm for Reputation Management and Defense

1. It eliminates hypotheticals and "best guesses"

In the simplest of forms, it eliminates the hypotheticals, and best guesses when planning earned media strategy, owned media content, what types of awards are important and even what speaking opportunities matter most.

Arming your internal communications team, a contractor, or an agency with essential intelligence saves hundreds of hours of strategic planning time. Data at all levels of an organization matters, and it's no different for strategic communications — especially when these positions may have to work harder to show and tell value.

Related: The Relationship Between Reputation and Brand

2. Competitors may have already done some of the heavy liftings

Most CEOs we work with share a similar opinion that if it's not a news outlet, event, or award their competitive counterparts would participate in, they are likely to follow suit.

On the flip side, taking a regular snapshot of where your competitors are being mentioned, how they're being talked about, what awards they're winning, owned media calls to action and who is partnering with them offers multiple intelligence opportunities when planning key moments in time.

From helping better communicate competitive differentiators to identifying open or white spaces in an entire industry, there's no better way to build a reputation than by "owning" a category ripe for introduction or disruption.

3. Amplification matters

Part of the role of a strategic communications leader is to help explain why specific earned media opportunities are important. If it's a niche or trade publication heavily respected by a targeted audience a brand is trying to reach, it may hold more prominence than a tier 1 mainstream news outlet.

Additionally, highly credible and high-ranking pages may be subject to redistribution on other sites and included in: round up articles, newsletters, podcast mentions, and shared on message boards and other places. This increases overall reach, relevance, and engagement.

If you can reach a top-tier trade publication and then garner tier 1 distribution in three or more sites that all give you page one prominence on Google, that is a giant win in positive narrative management.

4. A better brand understanding of the reputational scope

Reputation may be a term "thrown around" by communicators, but until it's given some data points and credible backing, it's often hard to prove just how much a brand is resonating. Brand-led surveys don't convey the entire picture, especially if they're only tracking post-sales moments. A brand's stakeholders include more than the customer; it may also include journalists, investors, regulators, analysts, board members, employees and more.

Reputation+ considers these additional stakeholders when looking at the "full picture" or scope. Brands don't need multi-million dollar communications budgets to get a pulse on overall reputation but do need to dedicate time and a trusted process to ensure a regular cadence to give attention.

Related: 7 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Brand Reputation and Recognition

5. Tracking ROI can include reputation in addition to return

Public relations professionals are often held to obtainable metrics and reporting due to the very real fact that marketing, in and of itself, is messy. The industry is constantly evolving and developing new resources and tools to assist in tracking results, but nonetheless, it's a big undertaking.

Whether you have a PRM integrated with a client's Google Analytics or use a combination of metrics, like:

  • Media growth
  • Share of voice
  • Sentiment
  • Estimated views
  • Audience Reach
  • Business Outcomes
  • Engagement

It still doesn't include the complete picture of Reputation+, which is an overall growth or maintenance of just how stakeholders think about your brand.

In addition to the metrics above and the areas above, we treat Reputation as an 80-point scale that is re-evaluated quarterly to see where the "needle" is moving regarding a brand's key business objectives or based on current scope and deliverables. This score is the crux of a reputation and allows internal stakeholders at all levels a better understanding of where a brand stands with its key public.

Sarah Evans

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Sevans PR

CEO, Sevans PR, a top 100 PR agency. Adobe Influencer. Editor of Hacker Noon's "Power Leaders" interview series. Host of Public's weekly Tech Check live show.

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