If there’s a silver lining to be found in COVID-19, it’s come in the form of opportunities for direct-to-customer sales. Not only have consumers flocked to digital platforms to search and shop, but studies have shown that most expect to continue doing so after the pandemic is over.

A March to May 2020 survey by research firm Gartner revealed that nearly half (45%) of the CMOs polled are experiencing reductions in their ad budgets. In addition, a 2019 study of several different brands by Digiday reported that more DTC brands are shifting to PR because of the increasing costs of advertising.

Earned media is proving to deliver a better ROI than paying for impressions on social media platforms like Facebook. Done properly, PR lives on in search engines, helps its own SEO, and delivers its own credibility.

Some new brands find quicker success working initially with a PR firm specializing in their industry and can perform the research necessary to identify its audience, their digital platforms, demographics, and formulate a strategy. Many brands begin with this approach and subsequently hire a PR staff once the program is launched and running. A reason for bringing in in-house staff is to be able to respond and act more quickly to change.

DTC PR Option 2

Brands with their own PR staff usually have the necessary tools on hand to accomplish the work. It’s more a matter of formulating a sound PR strategy and executing it. Here are some important things to include and consider as well as things to ask of a PR firm to measure if starting with them. What’s important is that all parties to the plan must be present at the table to draft and sign off on the strategy.

Cost per action (CTA), customer acquisition cost (CAC), return on investment (ROI) are marketing terms but also relevant to PR. Long term value (LTV) is important, too. Any plan must include ways to capture and measure PR’s impact in these areas.

In addition, a strategy must include key performance indicators. These include whether the plan reached its intended audience, how much earned media it earned, how it was perceived by potential customers, how the brand’s share of voice compared with competitors, the amount of social engagement with potential customers, and the number of views across all media platforms.

A way to capture these quantitative measures must also be part of the plan. They include lead volume as demonstrated by email, inquiries, and opt-ins, the estimated advertising cost to reach the same number of consumers, and how much PR efforts affected revenue.

The most challenging part is the plan itself. Consensus must be reached on critical items starting with goals and timelines along the journey. Each area identified above needs to be discussed, and ideas explored about what actions will fulfill the goal.

Armed with all these action items, an agreement must then be reached on areas of responsibility and a schedule for regular reporting results, updates, changes, etc.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.