The Holmes Group is dedicated to proving and improving the value of public relations, by providing insight, knowledge and recognition to public relations professionals. They have produced a series of Special Reports focusing on the sectors and practice areas that are driving change in the public relations industry.
Digital public relations has faced an identity crisis as the practice subsumes nearly every modern public relations organisation. While its meaning can range from social media to emerging facets of the discipline, such as data analysis and app development, in 2013 its significance remains uncontested. The Holmes Report called upon digital public relations experts worldwide to outline the trends that will lead the sector as it continues to define itself this year.
- Vanity metrics under pressure -- As the public relations industry came to terms with KPIs and measurement, clients commonly outsourced measurement to agencies who then outsourced the data collection and analysis to digital monitoring services -- enabling sophisticated distortions of the data, often to reinforce each party’s vested interest. “The honeymoon is over -- vanity metrics will no longer cut it,” says Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group. In 2013, the public relations industry will be forced to backup vague terms, like engagement or influence, by explicitly proving their worth to the business world. With this, shared meanings are likely to emerge throughout the industry, especially when it comes to applied value. “There’s a difference between a retweet and a Pinterest pin -- so we’ll see this benchmarking not being as neat and clean as it has been,” Etlinger adds.
- Mobile content takes form-- Since the iPhone, the public relations industry has anticipated just how the mobile phenomenon will transform the sector. While some agencies jumped into the app development game, mobile’s content implications are now becoming clearer. “Content will be developed for mobile screens and mobile consumption increasingly,” says Zaheer Nooruddin, regional VP and Asia-Pac digital strategies lead for Waggener Edstrom. This means in 2013, digital public relations will involve drafting condensed copy that’s digestible on a mobile screen or video press releases that convey information visually and quickly, as well as applying a “which device” filter to tailor content to everything from tablets to smart watches.
- Marketing diverges? -- Digital has often been proclaimed as the force that will inevitably lead to the collision of marketing and public relations. This isn’t so, says Jon Silk, head of European digital strategy at Bite Communications. “Digital public relations is growing into an important branch of marketing in its own right,” he says, noting that digital public relations consists mostly of online influencer relations, conversation tracking and content creation. “The challenge is learning where public relations ends and disciplines like marketing and advertising begin…let the experts concentrate on what they’re good at,” Silk adds. This viewpoint will certainly be debated in 2013, as others like Sandy Purewal, CEO of the Octopus Group, forecast public relations’ ongoing encroachment into marketing budgets as clients seek better economies of scale in 2013.
- More socialised customer service -- Customer service woes will increasingly be played out on social channels -- despite warnings that doing so only trains customers to publicly complain in order to quickly and effectively have their problem resolved. “Channel inconsistency is an ugly phenomenon,” adds Altimeter’s Etlinger, referring to the disconnect between traditional customer service and rapid social responses. To resolve this, savvy companies will make sharing information a priority for developing a consistent customer experience, she adds. This means digital will have to be infused into all aspects of an organisation, not just sit with the marketing and public relations teams.
- Strategic data mining -- Last year, the Holmes Report looked into the ways big data is changing how public relations is done -- both strategically and tactically. More than one year later, the demand for data-driven public relations continues as organisations allocate resources to data analysis. Just last year, public relations organisations such as Hill + Knowlton Strategies and Next Fifteen, made investments in data even though its ultimate business value remains hazy. “Public relations agencies certainly haven’t cracked insight,” Clive Armitage, managing partner at agent3, told the Holmes Report late last year. “It’s a mixture of using rich data and analytics, and also some traditional research to get some first-hand insight into how audiences view companies.