In the last couple of days, the front pages have lit up with news about Prince Harry’s appointment as Chief Impact Officer at BetterUp, a $1bn Silicon Valley startup providing professional coaching and mental health advice. But how does a Chief Impact Officer demonstrate impact?
Publicly, BetterUp says that it hopes Prince Harry’s role will help clients with “proactive coaching” for personal development, as well as helping to advocate for better mental health. But behind the scenes, BetterUp’s objectives are likely to be much broader. It’s possible that the startup is looking for future investment, or even an eventual sale. For certain the company wants to expand its client base – and view Prince Harry’s appointment as a route to powering this growth by ‘expanding BetterUp’s global community’. And importantly, senior execs at BetterUp will want to see swathes of positive media coverage that will ultimately help fulfil both of these goals.
For BetterUp’s PR team, an extremely exciting time is likely to also be a complex one. When Prince Harry joins your team, how do you go about measuring the impact? For us, the secret is not to be blinded by the short term. As we’ve seen over the past days, media coverage about BetterUp is through the roof. Every TV station, radio programme and newspaper has picked up on the story – and commentators are discussing at length what it means for both Harry and the life coaching industry. But an initial spike in press coverage, web hits and social conversations don’t always translate into measurable results for a business in the long term.
Indeed, to analyse whether Harry’s appointment is a short-term publicity stunt, or is going to deliver long-term results, the team will have to look beyond the headlines. And the first place to start is to see whether their messages are permeating the wider buzz. Is the social media chatter about Harry’s personal life, for example, or is BetterUp’s brand proposition being talked about too? BetterUp’s PR team will also need to work out whether they’re reaching the right audiences – be that investors or customers themselves. For example, is headline BBC News coverage really going to influence execs in Silicon Valley? Maybe – but you need to look hard at its readership to know.
The second port of call is to look at the long-term fallout of the news. PR teams and senior executives alike will want to know how the news has endured past the initial days. Are those first breadcrumbs generating longer-term interest? And in addition, PR teams will need to plan how to capitalise on the news longer term. Should they be following up the initial sweep of coverage with a campaign to lifestyle press, to directly reach those looking for help? Or should they be talking to the investor-focused media to make the business case for a cash injection?
We know that BetterUp wants Harry to help advocate for better mental health, so the team will need to look at whether this is working – through consumer research and sentiment testing. And to see whether Harry’s appointment has impacted positively on the company, they may want to consider tools like NetPromoter scores, to measure and monitor brand sentiment.
So, even when Prince Harry is on your side, measurement and evaluation is still important – perhaps even more so. We know that as well as looking at the long term impact of the appointment, BetterUp’s PR team need to have benchmarked how they were viewed before the news – it’s no good trying to look at where you’re going until you know where you’re starting from.
Finally, measurement enthusiasts might be rubbing their hands in glee, sure that if Prince Harry is looking at the ‘impact’ of BetterUp’s work, then the wider industry must follow. Of course, we don’t have Harry’s job description on hand, so we don’t really know what impact means in this case, but it’s true that the appointment brings the role of measurement and evaluation to the foreground. This is great news, but we must guard against ‘impact’ becoming a buzzword which is talked about at length but becomes meaningless, or which teams think they’ve addressed by presenting big coverage totals or readership figures. And, as we’ve seen from this example, meaningful measurement takes work – requiring the same effort and commitment as delivering the comms and marketing activity itself.
To really measure impact, we know that companies must focus on looking hard at what their objectives are and how PR and marketing are delivering against them – ultimately measuring how and why activity is working, or indeed not working well. It will be interesting to watch how Prince Harry’s appointment shifts brand awareness for BetterUp for the long term – and what his role will mean for the company and the wider industry.