Digesting the PRCA Digital PR report

John Crossley

21 Sep 2015

SEO and measurement are two of the biggest challenges facing digital PR in 2015, according the PRCA.

Our industry body unveiled its Digital PR Report for 2015 last week, and it has unmasked some quite telling points about the state of the industry.

The survey found in-house teams are less confident when it comes to measuring digital and social activities compared to traditional ones. This leaves me scratching my head slightly.

Surely this should be the other way around? The very nature of digital means we have a wealth of data at our fingertips.

In my view, it shows the importance of getting your comms objectives nailed down from the outset – then you’re able to directly measure against how you’re performing.

Elsewhere in the survey (which spoke to 280 agency and in-house PR pros) LinkedIn usage has surged from 57% last year to 71% this year (which doesn’t feel surprising). On top of this, use of Google+ and Pinterest is on the slide, with those platforms showing just 6% and 7% usage respectively.

Instagram is expected to see the biggest growth in the coming year, cited by 73% of in-house teams – something I feel is being fuelled by PR programmes that are content-rich.

SEO is another area that will be ripe for “disruption” (buzzword bingo alert) in the next 12 months. It’s a discipline that PRs told the survey they’re still getting to grips with – with half of agencies saying there was a need for greater education and insight in this area.

Elsewhere in the survey, there were high expectations that digital budgets will grow in the next 12 months – 64% of in-house teams said this. The same prediction was made last year however, and it didn’t translate into any change with the same 16% of marketing budget going on digital this year.

A big barrier to more money going into digital appears to be the continued lack of budget and staff resource in-house. According to the survey, 55% of in-house teams gave this as the reason for not doing more on social media (although there was no breakdown on the split between the two).

The natural (and sensible) step of course is to outsource – aligning your digital activities with PR.

But delve further and that’s where many are going down the wrong track. Outsource, yes, but is there a need for clients to go to multiple agencies for different digital disciplines?

As a PR agency (with an integrated digital offering) we are the content creators for our clients, we know their business, and our work is backed up by in-depth audience insight.

Why then is paid social activity often sent away to media-buying agencies, for example, when it’s just a case of targeting the right audience and hitting ‘buy’? Surely it’s better to have that element controlled as part of one succinct integrated offering?

You take away the nuances of “too many cooks” spoiling the broth, work can be turned around quicker, and it’s going to be much more efficient (and therefore cheaper) from a client’s perspective.

So where does this leave us? The lines between digital and traditional are continuing to blur, which totally underlines the importance of agencies having a strong integrated offering.

The skills used by us folks in digital should be part-and-parcel of your traditional PR as well. In my opinion in the next 12 months more and more clients will realise the benefits of having those digital disciplines under one roof, rather than the fragmented approach we see at the moment.

If you fancied delving into the results the full report is available online here. Agree or disagree with the findings? Tweet me at @jcrossley1, I’d love to hear your thoughts.