The encouraging face of digital according to the PRCA

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The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) published the PRCA Digital PR Report 2015 on September 14. Produced in partnership with The Holmes Report and YouGov, the report’s findings offer a snapshot of how the PR industry in the UK is performing with digital communications, and what the future might look like.

280 agency and in-house PR professionals were surveyed across business services, finance and banking, technology and telecoms, charities and NGOs, government and other sectors. In-house respondents included directors of marketing/communications, heads of marketing/communications, heads of press/PR. Agency respondents included CEOs, MDs, Partners and Directors.

The key findings:

  1. In-house PR staff surveyed are now far less likely to point to negative reasons for embracing social media, instead pointing to general marketing and customer services
  2. The mean percentage of in-house marketing budget spend that goes on digital activities is 16% – no change since last year
  3. Investment in blogger outreach for in-house teams continues to grow and PR agencies are increasingly entrusted with this work
  4. Top platforms remain Twitter and Facebook, but with growth in LinkedIn and less use of Pinterest and Google+
  5. Agency and in-house people still need training. For agencies, top need is SEO; for in-house, top need is blogger outreach

The 8-page report and the accompanying slide deck, infographic and other content, all available to view and download, offer some useful insights into a significant element of the communication landscape, what’s happening and what may change.

Three aspects in particular of the report’s findings caught my eye:

Changing In-House Attitudes

This suggests a metamorphosis in how social media is used by communicators is well underway, where increasing use in general marketing means pragmatism and ROI have overtaken informality and experimentation. When channels reach mainstream maturity as the major social media channels have done, these are the prices you pay for bringing social into marketing. Which isn’t a bad thing.

How PR agencies are being used

The synergy looks good here where client expectations of what their agencies should be able to deliver in digital service areas is largely matched by what those agencies have actually been able to deliver so far. The trick is how to ensure continuity of delivery this year and onwards where, elsewhere in the report, the findings show that two of the top training needs are SEO (in house) and blogger outreach (agencies). Opportunities there.

Platforms - LinkedIn

What caught my eye most about this finding is the comment on “lack of confidence in measuring ROI” in LinkedIn. In spite of that, the PRCA’s finding states that LinkedIn has shown the biggest in-house growth in usage, with the expectation of more in the coming year. Imagine what that might be if measurement was much easier (I don’t know how you find it, but I find LinkedIn a real headache when it comes to its metrics). Or is it a matter of being more confident in measuring your communication in LinkedIn? Both?

There’s an interesting post on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions EMEA Blog from last month on the topic of measurement, with this telling statement:

[…] Whilst 71% of marketers measure ROI (more than any other department), only 23% are confident in its accuracy and only 13% believe their communications to be very effective. However, at a time when multichannel savvy and analytical expertise matters more than ever, only marketers have the tools and training to plan a fully integrated digital marketing strategy. And a digital marketing strategy is what any business increasingly needs.

In all, the PRCA’s report offers a rich seam of insights into the current state of digital across the UK marketing/PR landscape. Make of it what you will.

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(Picture at top via Hubspot.)