WEDNESDAY 16 SEP 2015 1:32 PM


Over the years, PR has become more digitally-savvy. In-house teams have taken more responsibility for film, social media or microsite management and agencies have upped their digital services offer.

Yet, the PRCA’s 3rd annual Digital PR Report shows there are still areas to be improved upon.

The most telling statistic from the report shows that in-house communicators are focusing more on SEO and blogger outreach – the latter focus is marked by a 53% increase from last year. Yet, for PR agencies, the biggest growth area has been web design and build (which has seen a 24% decrease in budget) and 50% of respondents said they needed more education into SEO.

The launch event in London featured a panel including Lisa Elliott, a partner at Lansons, Abby Guthkelch, head of social media engagement for HSBC, and Candace Kuss, director of social media at H+K Strategies. In regards to the question of blogger outreach, they said that most likely, the need to engage bloggers is tied into a larger communications objective. It may be a key part of a campaign, but the communicator may not have identified that it is linked to a wider issue.

Danny Whatmough, head of social, EMEA at Weber Shandwick and chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, says, “Brands are continuing to evolve in their handling of digital communications, with more expectation being heaped on their PR agencies to deliver a broad range of activities from blogger outreach to web design and build. There’s an interesting debate to be had around the longer term role of PR agencies working alongside in-house teams that continue to strengthen their digital skills. And the issue of training continues to be an issue for many who need to improve their skills."

Regarding SEO, the debate increased. Some argued that SEO is still a new concept to PR in general, others that SEO is constantly changing and thus difficult to understand.

Last year, however, the report focused the ways in which advertising spend and price-per-click is integrated into PR campaigns and social media spend. Guthkelch says most social media campaigns should have a paid component as well. Kuss agrees, “We hardly do any Facebook work that isn’t supported by paid spend, because you have to.” Guthkelch adds, “Social media is no longer free.”

There are distinctions as well in the way in which B2B companies and B2C companies approach social media. The compliance issues relevant to financial services firms are not the same as those placed upon FMCG brands. But, Kuss says, B2B companies have lost their shyness in regards to social media as social “Is a natural place for them.” The main challenges with social, particularly for B2B companies, remain the determination of ROI, setting clear objectives from the start – issues the panel says are most likely linked – and crisis communications. It’s hard to do best in class social media in a crisis because of the limitations placed by compliance teams, Guthkelch says. She says communicators should educate their compliance counterparts about reputational risk.

Guthkelch also argues for social media to be approached as an integrated part of communications, “Don’t silo social media to just being a marketing or a communications or a customer service responsibility.”

The Digital PR Report also provides insights into budgeting for social and digital media. The mean percentage of the marketing budget spent on digital is 16% – the same as in 2014 – yet 64% of in-house teams expect that to grow this year. The panel says the decreased budget for web design and build is likely due to the relative scarcity of large-scale website or campaign microsite projects but that it is still an area of focus for in-house teams.

There were launch events in Glasgow, Belfast and Birmingham last week. The report was carried out in association with YouGov.