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8 things we learnt from the 2016 PRCA Digital Report

The PRCA Digital Report is a benchmark for how the public relations business is getting to grips with digital and social forms of communications.

The fourth annual report, produced in partnership with YouGov, tells the story of agencies and brands getting to grips with digital and social media. Budgets are rising driven by shifts in media, influencers, networks and new forms of content. Training remains an area that is under invested.

#1 Drivers and barriers to brand adoption

Brands invest in social media either to drive more audience reach (85%), to drive awareness of what the brand does (80%) or to drive awareness of the brand (75%).

The main reasons flagged by brands for not using digital/social more frequently are a lack of budget (46%) or a lack of staff (32%), rather than the board not understanding the need for it (11%), a positive step.

#2 In-house roles and responsibilities

45% of in-house respondents claim that the majority of content for digital/social media activity comes from the public relations/communications department (45%). 21% point to the marketing department (up by 5%), and 23% the social media team.

#3 Budget growth is strong

The mean percentage of marketing budget spent on digital/social media is 25%, which is up from 16% in 2015. In addition, most (62%) expect their digital budgets to grow in the next 12 months.

#4 Investment: content, build, and paid

Digital budget spend are video-based content (62%), web design and build (55%) and paid social media activity (55%). Despite web design and build being a leading area of investment, it has dropped by 24% in the past four years, suggesting that much of the investment has already been made. Likewise, investment in social media strategy has reduced by a fifth in the past four years, suggesting that this is now largely handled in-house.

#5 Agency services: media relations, influencers and content

Clients are most likely to expect the following services from public relations and communications agencies: online media outreach (65%), online press release distribution (65%) and social influencer outreach (61%). Over the past four years, the biggest drops in service offerings by agencies are seen in monitoring and listening to customers (down by 21%); and SEO (down by 20%).

#6 Social media platforms

Twitter and Facebook remain on top, with 96% and 92% of in-house teams having used those platforms over the past year. Over the last year, the in-house teams surveyed have seen the biggest growth in use of Instagram (14% growth) and Snapchat (14% growth).

The biggest in-house platform losers are Pinterest and Google+, with a drop of 14% and 11% in usage respectively over the past year. In-house staff are more confident that they can measure the return on investment (ROI) of digital public relations (73%) than traditional public relations activities (65%). However, earned and paid social media only ranks at 65% confidence – equal that of traditional public relations.

#7 Use of social media platforms matures

For agencies, the leading campaign platforms over the past year are Twitter (95%); Facebook (89%); and blogs (83%). Facebook use has leapt from 77% to 89% in the past year. Agencies expect Twitter to be the leading platform in the coming year, with 91% of them expecting to use it for their clients’ digital public relations activity.

#8 Sources of learning and development

In-house communications people gain their social media education and insight from conferences and events (50%) and seminars and roundtables (50%), which has grown significantly by 18%.

Agency staff rate expert blogs as the most popular (64%); followed by conferences and events (44%) and external training courses (35%). Over half of agency people said that they required more digital/social media training (53%).

The fourth annual PRCA Digital Public Relations and Communications Report is based on interviews with more than 200 agencies and in house public relations teams.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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