Danny Whatmough Weber Shandwick PRCA digital report

Opinion: PR must embrace digital in 2018

Danny Whatmough, head of social at Weber Shandwick and chair of the PRCA Digital Group, outlines the key takeaways from this year’s PRCA digital report.

One trend that really stood out in the PRCA’s fifth annual PRCA digital report is that digital is no longer an add-on. We are communicating in a digital world and that requires both in-house and agency professionals to change the way they work.

The latest research shows that the PR industry is leading the charge in many areas. But this is not a time for complacency. We need to continue to evolve to compete. And there are key areas where more work is needed.

There was reticence this year from in-house respondents. Fears around using digital and social channels has increased, possibly driven by the current geopolitical climate.

Fear of attack from campaigners has risen by 9% as a reason companies aren’t using social media more often, taking it to 12%. That’s the highest figure since our research began.

Another key area is content. Agencies have seen a general rise in their usage as content creators in 2017. The purchasing of video-based content has risen by 10% to 13%. The purchasing of image-based content has risen by 5% to 11%. And the use of text-based content has risen by 7% to 11%.

There’s potential here too, of course. While there might be more fish in the pond, the prize is bigger. And as marketers come around to the power of earned media, we have a strong story to tell.

Over the next 12 months we will see more talk of integration and collaboration in the content creation space. This will come from competing disciplines and will mean we will all have to fight harder for budgets – both in-house and within agencies.

Interestingly, there was less confidence than last year around the measurement of digital. Most in-house respondents say they can confidently measure the ROI of Twitter (60%) and Facebook (53%) activities, but these numbers have dropped since 2016.

Education is helping PRs embrace the digital space

One of the most welcome areas in this year’s report was digital education. For those in-house, the most highly rated source of education is now external training courses, which are up by 28% this year, to 64%.

A majority of in-house respondents also gain their social media education from conferences and events (51%) and expert blogs (49%).

In the first year of this report, industry blogs were the main source of education – so it is great to see more training and investment being brought into this space.

So, as in previous years, there is much to celebrate in the PRCA digital report. There is much that should cause us to pause and reflect and there is a lot to be excited about in the future. This is one of the most thrilling times to be working in this industry.

Complexity causes different reactions in different people. Some shy away from it, wanting an easy life. But it’s those communicators who lean in and embrace the opportunity that complexity provides that will best navigate it and succeed.

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