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Tracking the customer journey

There are a few common problems every PR pro faces but rarely has an answer to:  

  1. How can we influence the C-Suite when there are so many calls for their attention?  
  2. How do we prove the value of PR when frequently used KPIs (such as impressions) are little more than vanity metrics?

Fortunately, the answer to both these questions is the same — the Customer Journey.

Research from the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations in its 2019 Global Communications Report stated that there is a clear disparity between what CEOs want and what in-house communicators see as their goal. In fact, the whole C-Suite have different objectives — the CEO wants sales, the CCO talks coverage, the CFO worries about margin and the bottom line. Is it any wonder that with every executive talking a different language that PR has such difficulty trying to push mindshare in their direction by discussing hard-to-grasp concepts such as earned media penetration or dubious ones such as reach?

The customer journey is the solution. Known previously as the purchase funnel, this is the five-step process a potential customer travels through from being first aware of a company’s solution, to considering it against the competition, forming an opinion about it, purchasing it and finally advocating its benefits to their community. 

Industry analyst firm Aberdeen Group has proven that when PR follows a customer journey approach, they increase the efficacy of their work by 50%. That means doing more with less — and with one bold strike you have the CFO on board.

The CEO sees things differently: They want sales. The truth is that to increase sales, a company must first address the earlier steps in the journey to optimize any future investment. For example, for a new product, if the goal is to increase purchase intent, then a sample PR tactic could include vouchers and in-store offers. This will undoubtedly increase short- term sales, but the long-lasting impact will be poor. Little has been done to raise awareness, which means that any blip in increased purchases will not continue as the wider number of prospects have little understanding that the product is available.  

A mapping exercise that calculates the gap between a product/brand and that of its competitors for each stage of the customer journey will clearly articulate where the focus of the PR campaign should be. If the largest delta is awareness, then a sample tactic could be to engage with high-reach influencers; if it’s attitude, then you might focus on niche, trusted influencers who are respected in that market. The customer journey provides the focus and determines what jobs need to be done.

Understanding where this focus should be enables long-term sales. Now the CEO is paying attention!

And what about the CCO? This approach has finally informed them what the best use of their investment should be and where it should be focused. It helps to inspire the creatives to ensure their campaigns are aligned to the objective, while also providing specific KPIs that determine success. No longer will we be talking about vanilla metrics that aren’t relevant — instead, we pick datapoints that are most representative of improving the named objective within the customer journey.

I once worked with a company whose PR team was rewarded with salary bonuses based on impressions. The numbers each month were incredible, and if the problem this brand faced was one of awareness they would have smashed it. Unfortunately, this brand did not have an awareness problem — the market knew all about them. Their issue was one of consideration: They were known, but no one saw a need to buy them. By following a customer journey approach, it enabled the executive team to realize that they were rewarding the wrong behavior and instead the team should have focused their activities in other ways.

As our team at Golin has begun planning for the next year or next campaign, I have noticed a significant change with the brands we work with. PR is invited to discuss where the focus should be with the C-Suite — and, critically, that is determined by analyzing the customer journey. The result equals more sales...and that keeps everyone happy.    

To download a full copy of the 2020 Relevance Report, click here.