Our survey said…
The results of the sixth annual 2006 PRWeek/Burson-Marsteller CEO Survey are in (funny…I can’t recall the previous five, but no matter) and you can probably hear the distant groaning of statistics being stretched to their limit. In fact, when the sub-heading of the press release is “New Survey Notes CEOs Frequently Revise Strategies In Light of Emerging Issues” you wonder why they don’t just call it the sixth annual “Go Figure” CEO Survey.
However, in light of our recent debate about the amount of time PR professionals spend meeting their clients’ ever more demanding reporting requirements, the headline finding is interesting; that the majority (62%) of CEOs “indicate that gut feelings are highly influential in guiding their business strategies, while only four in 10 cite internal metrics and financial information.”
So, the CEO is much more likely to read the paper, watch TV, browse the odd glossy, maybe do a bit of online and listen to customers to work out whether PR is delivering value for money. The impetus for reports and measurement doesn’t come from the top (but we knew that already, didn’t we?).
The survey also tells us that the top priorities for CEOs in terms of the outcomes of their actions (and presumably the actions of their employees and any companies they might employ to work on their behalf) are customer reactions, long-term financial performance and corporate reputation.
So it’s fairly safe to assume that CEOs would prefer their company’s money was spent doing things that had a positive impact on those priorities, rather than producing increasingly detailed reports to cover the arse and justify the job of some middle-ranking in-house PR manager.
We’re often told that the demand for more reporting comes from above; that “we need these reports to feed into management reports higher up the food chain.” Bollocks. Listen up: “THE CEO DOESN’T CARE ABOUT YOUR CRAPPY LITTLE REPORTS!”
OK, so you might say that in helping secure the job of the in-house PR manager an agency is also helping secure its own role, but given the choice I reckon that most agency heads would rather take their chances in spending their time generating great results and being smart about making sure their work gets noticed in the boardroom (or on the golf course, at the rugby, in their club).
I remember a few years back PR Week ran an on-going campaign called Proof (I think) which aimed to ensure that every campaign had 10% of its budget devoted to measurement and evaluation of results. Surely we can lump reporting into campaign measurement and evaluation these days and, if so, wouldn’t it be a dream if you could ensure that only 10% of the fee was spent on those activities? It’d be far less than most spend on it at the moment. I suspect, however, that the PR Week campaign was focused on diverting 10% of your fee into third-party coverage evaluation services like Metrica…which only makes the time spent reporting even more of a squeeze on your margins.
Reporting demands are sucking the lifeblood from creative PR execs…I see it all the time. All those shiny new grads from last week’s PR Week walking into top agencies, dreaming of days filled with brainstorms, creative juices spilling over the desks, clients simply gagging for the next great idea…how long before the daily grind of admin drives them into other careers? Crikey, you might as well be making more money being as bored somewhere else, right?