Public Relations must change in Order to Capitalise on the Digital Media and Marketing Opportunity
PR spending in Australia is forecast to grow between now and 2015, according to Ibis World. More and more brands are waking up to the opportunity to engage their customers via digital and social media and turning to PR agencies to help them.
The jury is probably still out when it comes to the question of who owns social media but most marketers would agree that the PR sectors specific approach to influencing is an expertise that advertising agencies and media buyers need to accommodate. There is an acknowledgement that PR, as a discipline, lends itself to online engagement and community management.
This puts PR in a good position but the industry cannot afford to rest on its laurels. PR must also adapt to an increasingly digital media and marketing environment.
To succeed as a player in the digital marketing mix I believe that there are some core skills and attributes that the PR industry needs to acquire.
Visual and interactive communication
A PR agency recently launched in Australia claiming that its people could write really well. That’s quaint. Apart from being a no-brainer for a PR agency, good writing skills are only one aspect of what’s required today when it comes to content. Digital is a visual medium. The ability to create quality interactive and visual content is the new pre-requisite for a PR agency that wants to be in contention.
Data and audience insights
Many PRs mock their own numerical literacy but data underpins digital. PR agencies need to be adept at collecting and interpreting audience data. Research – from social media listening to technographics – must become a core aspect of planning for the PR industry. The media audit – upon which many a PR strategy has been based – will no longer cut it.
Integrated strategy and channels
The three marketing disciplines no longer exist in silo. The lines between them are well and truly blurred. All agencies need to take a much broader view of their client’s marketing strategy but particularly PR which has traditionally operated in isolation. The leading practitioners can take a leadership position by developing the messaging that is required to support continuous dialogue online.
Significantly, agencies need to be cautious that they do not over index on digital and social media. Traditional media still has a critical role to play. The ability to integrate traditional and new influence and to deliver peaks in awareness via traditional media supported by an ongoing dialogue online is the preserve of public relations.
Today’s PR environment places new demands on the PR sector – many of these demands will require the involvement of third parties, such as developers, designers, software providers and production house. PR therefore must excel at project management and co-creation by establishing relationships with specialist third parties and working collaboratively with them.
Increased comfort levels with data extend to the back end of programs. New investment in the PR sector will fall away unless the industry can prove its value. Credible measurement systems and metrics are required. I believe that these can be agency or client specific. PR agencies should take responsibility in this space rather than wait for industry associations to rubber stamp a standardised cross industry measurement system.
There are a lot of PR agencies that are happy to stick to their knitting – media relations and events. The forward looking types are keen to capitalise on the opportunity in digital PR, which presents huge opportunities for strategic insight and creativity by bringing PR consultants into direct contact with the audience.
By adding these capabilities and approaches to its fundamentals, the PR industry will be well positioned as stakeholder in the digital marketing mix. The benefit will come in the form of increased investment and a transformation of its own somewhat hackneyed image.