Written by Sophie Hodgson and originally published on the EQT Ventures blog 

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a PR 101 EQT Circles event. Along with EQT Ventures Communications Partner, Lucy Wimmer, we were chatting with startups from across the VC’s portfolio – and beyond – about how to know when the time is right to invest in PR, in-house versus outsourced resource, why PR is not a silver bullet and of course, measurement.

Measurement is the boomerang that keeps coming back to bite PR in the derrière and it’s also the root cause of some serious frustrations that startups have with their PR efforts. What was clear from the room was that the general consensus on PR agencies was at best muted, but the predominant feeling was that these companies weren’t getting bang for their buck.

This, said Lucy, is something she hears a lot from companies. The issue, more often than not, is that startups don’t have KPIs in place to measure their agency. This resonated with the room as the majority admitted they had no metrics in place to evaluate agency performance or to ensure the opportunities being secured were in line with the business’ growth objectives. In the absence of metrics, all they had to rely on was a feeling and that feeling was, well, disappointment.

Sitting listening to these founders and comms people, I too was disappointed. Why? As an industry, we should be looking to deliver and prove business value – and the responsibility is on us, not a company that hasn’t done PR before. We need to be an open, honest and transparent partner to startups and businesses of all sizes.

So, when it comes to metrics, what are my tips?

  1. Be clear about what you want to achieve and the role you would like PR to play in that objective. ‘No man is an island’ as the saying goes and the same is true for PR – it’s at its most impactful, and measurable, when integrated with wider activity
  2. The old age adage of quality versus quantity is a well-trodden debate. To know that PR is having an influence, you need to understand your audience and how they consume media – then working with your agency you can be forensic about where comms can add the most value to the sales process. We work with clients to identify the influencers in their industry, the channels we can communicate with them and the right content to get their attention. Based on that, we work back to outline KPIs
  3. Don’t let measurement become the elephant in the room. Explain upfront how important it is to you to be able to benchmark success beyond a good feeling. PR has come a long way since the days when coverage piles were compared with advertising costs, we can be more measurable and no agency should be shy in talking about the different ways they can work with you to measure the business outputs of their activity

Ultimately though, successful PR is about the right partnership. And, whilst that’s harder to put metrics against, you’ll know in your gut if you’re with the right agency.If you are, have an honest chat with the agency about how you want the programme to be more measurable and the different targets you’d like to put in place. It was largely agreed at the event that if you never have the conversation, nothing will ever change regardless of which agency you’re with. As Ed Foreman said: “If you always do what you’ve done, you will always get what you’ve got.”

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