MONDAY 3 JUL 2023 1:19 PM


Stella Bayles, director of CoverageBook, argues that PR is in need of an industry shake-up in the form of a new 'data culture', where analytics will be brought to the fore.

Recent industry observations have revealed that the PR industry has been hit with a total slowdown, either by narrowly hitting Q1 business targets or by completely missing them altogether. This switch from a fairly strong agency market to a more constrained agency market shows that PR budgets are being slashed or are being replaced.

Following this, new research where 420 PR practitioners across agencies, in-house and freelance levels were surveyed, showed that 91% of in-house PR managers said they would invest more budget with their agencies if they had more confidence in their data literacy skills.

Although larger global agencies such as Golin, H+K, Weber and Ketchum have invested in analytics talent and dedicated data teams, they are centralised and will have time and location limitations in reaching every client. There remains a need for data literacy within client teams to authentically discuss the value of PR on a day-to-day basis with clients.

Then there is the rest of the industry, where thousands of PR practitioners don't have the luxury of working with and learning from data experts; 68% of PR pros surveyed said they don't have anyone in an in-house data role and 98% don't even have an external measurement team.

What the industry needs to understand is that there is a huge gap between agencies that can afford or are willing to invest in data and measurement training and teams that lack confidence. This needs to change.

A rapidly changing PR landscape

Nearly half of PRs (44%) admit to presenting a metric they didn't understand, and this is not okay. Clients are demanding way more tangible metrics and PR agencies will need to get in gear to provide this. No longer are clients willing to accept overinflated estimated reach figures and PR professionals are just going to have to recognise this.

Let’s increase data literacy and uplift confidence in all PRs abilities. The future of the industry depends on it.

To help PRs at all levels enter into a position of strength, tech vendors should be on hand to help teams showcase their impact by generating insights on outcomes from coverage-over-time and other correlations of PR - not meaningless and in all honesty, damaging metrics such as reach and AVE.

Vendors, as well as senior PR professionals, all have a responsibility to support PR teams by training them in data communication and simple metric explanations. This is so deeply needed as over half (57%) of PR professionals lack confidence in their data literacy skills.

By stepping up in a rapidly changing PR environment, PR teams will illustrate a boldness and a willingness to adapt to changing client demands whatever the campaign.

Securing the future of PR

Closing the data literacy gap will not only generate more client investment, but it will also set the high standard needed for future PR professionals. We must do away with unnecessary metrics that offer no real insight into whether there was an audience action or impact on the organisation.

The industry must come together to create a ‘data culture’ that encourages curiosity and questions. This is something we can look forward to as nearly three-quarters of all managers and directors (71%) would be more likely to promote a junior member of the team with good data skills.

We must encourage all levels of PR practitioners to up-skill and take an active role in data analysis. By just simply asking themselves ‘so what’ in every campaign report and then ‘where do we go from here’, teams will automatically put themselves in the best position to provide credible metrics that will secure future client investment.

By adopting a long-term strategy for data measurement, PR agencies will rightfully secure their place as the experts, giving clients the reassurance and confidence, they need to increase PR budgets and face teams at the c-suite level.