Thanks to Chris for a nifty resource (I’ll be using for teaching my students!).
Thanks to Chris for a nifty resource (I’ll be using for teaching my students!).
The report, which surveyed 136 agency and in-house teams, highlights a number of key themes which for those in and observing the UK’s PR industry should make interesting findings.
It’s a good report but at the moment I just want to pull out a couple of revealing results:
I find this interesting partly as while optimists might say that PR is adapting is also highlights the fact that the core digital services undertaken by PR agencies overlap with wider – perhaps more specialised – sectors.
Great that PR is competing on more levels, but does it have the specialist knowledge to compete and win? See my previous post about PR, social media and specialisation.
I’m a bit late posting this as our first guest lecture with Visa Europe’s VP of Digital Corp Comms, Nick Jones, is next week (still a few free tickets left) but nevertheless, our 2013-14 Guest Lecture Series is ready to roll.
I’m really pleased with what is an excellent line-up – full details below. All events are FREE and open to the public but booking is essential so we can get enough wine in! Eventbrite links will be made available a month ahead of each of the events.
I was away in Sweden at Philip Young’s NEMO organised Flashpoint conference last week and was lucky to listen to some excellent academic papers, and more importantly become involved in an ongoing debate about the need to bridge the currently yawning gap between PR academia and practice.
Since returning there have been a number of blog posts pop up raising a range of issues which I broadly support. I won’t cover them off here but would urge you to go and take a read and participate for yourselves – there’s loads of comment and discussion going on.
Firstly of all the University of Wolverhampton’s Sarah Williams posted on the difference between academics and practitioners. This was followed up by Stephen Waddington’s post on the need for academia and practitioners to work together to support a “maturing profession” – a perspective followed up by Stuart Bruce’s in his post.
This is all great stuff, and an important marker for integrating theory and praxis. But…. the most important question is: what is to be done?
Most of the posts mentioned offer some thoughts and here are a few of my own:
The start of term is looming and preparation and planning is underway. That’s why it’s taken me a week to get around to posting about the launch of, Share This Too, the second social media handbook published by Wiley.
My chapter looks at the rise of big data and how data mining can be used to plan and deliver strategic PR activity. It looks at this practically using a case where data was used to identify potential consumer issues for an organisation before they become full blown complaints. By being able to ‘predict’ and address these issues the organisation aimed to reduce its workload.
I conclude by arguing that this kind of innovative, data-led PR can help the PR discipline achieve a more strategic position – both within organisations and within the wider business and marketing consultancy industries.
So. Here’s a thought. My old boss and friend, Robin Grant, told PRWeek last year that PR had missed the boat on digital. The reality, of course, is much more nuanced than that but there is a definite truth to what he says based on my own experiences and discussions with a range of people from within the PR world.
[Image via FRANk Media]
The full range of reasons behind Robin’s comment is something for a much longer post (or book, perhaps) but a series of recent conversations with smart people helped me clarify at least one aspect of PR’s problem.
For instance, in a discussion with an ex-digital director at a global PR agency we both agreed that some forms of social media, particularly community management, is becoming commodified and how PR agencies, again, risk missing the boat on digital, by placing their ‘social media offering’ firmly in this camp. Think of it as sort of replacing client press release churn with churning Facebook posts and tweets.
We agreed that the biggest barriers to PR getting social media right are structural. That’s as far as the conversation went.
Then today I was having a discussion with someone else about the increasing specialisation of social media and it dawned on me that one of the reasons why the PR profession has dragged its heals in terms of adopting and making the most of social media is its structure as a generalist industry where account teams are responsible for the full range of communication tasks (albeit with varying degrees of emphasis depending on seniority).
For example, as social media becomes specialised needing expert teams of researchers and planners; content creators, community managers and analysts, etc, PR agencies operating with employees that are trained as generalists to fulfil most, if not all of those roles, simply cannot keep up to date with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed.
Advertising and digital agencies, on the other hand, are predominantly already structured into specialist teams. They only need to ensure that enough investment is made in ensuring their incumbent researchers, creatives, content producers, analysts, etc stay abreast of emerging knowledge and skills.
And then there’s the profit margins of PR. With their way bigger budgets, advertising and (some) digital agencies have more financial leeway to investment in training, resources and development.
So while, on paper, PR – with its theoretical foundation in understanding and building interpersonal relationships – should be on home territory when it comes to social media strategy in the main it is simply not structured in a way to make the most of this increasingly specialist landscape.
What is to be done?
I took part in an interesting (and eye-opening) workshop yesterday at Leeds Metropolitan University, Sharing Best Practice in Digital PR Education. Organised by Leeds Met and the Higher Education Academy the day was a sort of sounding board for the state of digital PR education in higher education with some case studies and workshops you can see my slides below or over on Slideshare).
I started taking notes but then gave up and just tweeted the majority of the event. You can find a Storify of the day here.
I did however, jot down some of the most interesting findings from a number of pan-European research projects that are currently underway: Euro Communications Monitor and the European Communication Professionals Skills and Innovation Programme.
I was typing while listening so didn’t manage to grab the exact stats but these (and more data) should be available on the respective websites.
European Communications Monitor insights:
ECOPSI insights (this survey is a more qualitative investigation and focuses on practitioner competencies). The data specifically refers to Social Media Managers and it seems my only two notes include:
I’m a big fan of blurring the or crossing the boundaries between online and offline materials.Take, for instance, the fantastic Newspaper Club or the simply outstanding The Iraq War: A Historiography of Wikipedia Changelogs. So, why has it taken so long for someone to create a ‘Tweet to postcard’ service?*
The agency Brands2Life have done just that as part of their work with at800 – the organisation raising awareness of the issues the 4G network might bring to Freeview users. Their email informs me that if you send a tweet with the hashtag #at800postbox at800 they will print the personalised message onto a traditional postcard and deliver it by post for free.
Really nice idea, although as it’s been described as a “PR stunt” by one Twitter user I suspect that it won’t be a permanent service. Shame really.
* I’m sure I’ve read about a similar service sometime in the past few years
I’m really pleased to say that the CIPR has launched its new Guide to Social Media Monitoring today. I’ve been responsible for co-ordinating and contributing to the Guide which has been written collaboratively by members of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel. I’ve embedded the document below as well as provided a bit of context and background to its origins.
From personal experience as well as evidence from CIPR member feedback it is clear that social media monitoring (SMM) is a key issue for PR practitioners at the moment. And while many practitioners know SMM is increasingly important, they don’t necessarily know exactly what monitoring entails, which tools and technologies are good for certain tasks and how to integrate it into wider strategies and practices.
So this became the primary driver for the document: we wanted it to explain what SMM is, what tools are available (both free and paid-for), how they work – and how they differ from other social media management platforms – as well as provide an overview of some of the leading tools in the market.
But we also recognised that in order to be practically useful we needed to add some wider organisational context around the tools and technologies piece. So, the guide also features sections covering how to build a business case for monitoring, how to set monitoring objectives as well as how to develop organisational workflows to get the most out of monitoring. The ultimate aim of this is PR practitioners will be empowered to make sense of SMM, recognise its potential and apply it to their organisations.
Overall we had some great feedback (Storify here), but below are a couple of my key take-aways from the day:
But, don’t just take my word for it. We have a couple of great post-event reflections from participants, including key note speaker, Oyvind Ihlen’s hand-grenade casually chucked into the room: “PR shouldn’t be measured”; Paul Seaman’s argument that PR should be leading economic change and renewal; Arun Sudhaman’s great insight on how changes in the media business should be changing the way brands communicate and Heather Yaxley’s post offering a great summary of the day’s main themes.