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PRCA Digital PR Report Event – Glasgow 11/12/2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Grant Whiteside

The PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) have just finished a tour around the country discussing the findings of their latest report into how the PR industry is evolving in the digital age. We caught up with them on a freezing cold night in Glasgow at the Radisson Blu.

Danny Whatmough of Weber Shandwick presented the findings of the report to a small but engaged audience made up of PR agencies, client side PR departments and digital marketing agencies.

Representing Ambergreen, I was invited onto the panel as an expert in search and marketing and was joined by Calum MacDonald of the Herald and Times and Clare Meikle from First Scotrail.

There are some clear differences between how the PR Industry thinks it can measure the outcomes (ROI) of their work in an offline capacity. 71% of respondents felt they could measure offline ROI easier in comparison to their efforts on a digital campaign.

Everyone in the room either disagreed or stayed silent. I think everyone in the meeting agreed that traditional PR agencies suffer a lack of knowledge in how to get to grasps with Analytics and there is considerable amount of work to do before they can provide the analytical insights needed for their clients. The largest hurdle will be getting PR agencies to recognise that integrity is core to any service offering and learning a few tricks from some blog posts isn’t enough to provide proper analysis without credible training that is backed up by the 10,000 hours that make you ‘qualified’.

What is clear is that we can see the fusion of another traditional industry moving toward digital arena. PR agencies now need to use ‘biddable’ media to promote their work to ensure it doesn’t get drowned out by deluge of ‘content’ that we get drenched by on a daily basis. The new digital skills of analytics, attribution and full service strategy are now coming into play. Larger PR agencies are hiring like there’s no tomorrow trying to import these skills whilst digital marketing agencies are looking to use digital PR expertise to provide a more holistic, algorithmic proof method of gaining search engine and real audience authority and relevance. It’s an interesting space that will continue to evolve.

Another finding from the report is the need for training for PR companies as most training is provided on blog posts with little structure or actionable process to ensure what is learned is either correct or relevant. If PR Agencies are to go digital they will need investment and direction at board level to ensure they provide these services with credibility.

A great insight from clients was they don’t want agencies to pretend they provide all ‘full service’ capabilities unless they can actually provide this. And when they can’t or they have a partner that provides this service, you need to be qualified enough to evaluate and say why you hired them and what they’ll provide within this service.

Everyone is looking for integrity, honesty and clarity of the services their agencies provide them, regardless of what part of ‘full service’ you provide. The digital PR industry is booming with enthusiasm and it can see its potential if it can get clients to see the value of the service it provides between measurable brand messaging and customer engagement.  Digital PR will grow from strength to strength.

Grant Whiteside
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