What happened:

PR and brand comms teams are increasingly using more data and in smarter way to demonstrate their value to the C-suite, according to the 2019 Global Comms Report by Cision. PR teams have improved and adopted analytical tools to help them measure more accurately the impact of the stories they generate. 

In the past, PR execs would go to their bosses and report billions of impressions based on the average audience on the sites where those stories were published. Now, they are investing in software solutions that provide them with more realistic and meaningful numbers.


Why it matters:

This new accountability in PR results has resulted in increasing respect among C-level executives. Even though the number of impacts of their stories is lower, the fact that it’s a more realistic number gives it more credibility.

They are also perceived as being aligned with other teams like sales, marketing and finance, that use data and analytics to prove their results and demonstrate accountability.

Data is also being used to shape the decision-making process regarding positioning and issues to address or to back off from.

For big global companies that generate thousands of stories in the media each week, having an analytics tool that can sort through all that data is crucial to inform the decision-making process. These kind of tools can help companies understand how many conversations are taking place, what’s their tone and where the brand sits in those conversations. This information helps PR teams shape their messages accordingly.

According to the Cision Global Comms Report the two biggest challenges for PR teams are tightening budgets and an inability to effectively measure comm’s impact. This means that the use of data is going to be a decisive factor in determining the effectiveness of PR teams compared to other teams who are not able to apply data to their analytics and decision-making processes.

Another consequence of this increase in data is a pivot to audience. For years the PR and brand comms teams were focused on media and journalists. Direct audience outreach was secondary, but the development of new online channels like social media and a new attitude towards data is helping drive this change.


Digging deeper:

Other key fact from the Cision Global Comms Report is the increasing role of Instagram in the social media channels most relevant to the content strategy of PR teams.

In past reports, the respondents of the survey placed Facebook and Twitter as their top social media channels. This year, Facebook is still the dominant channel, as it should be, given its dominance in the market. But Instagram has overtaken Twitter as the second most relevant social media channel. 57% of this year’s respondents placed Instagram in their top three channels, while 22% placed it as their top channel. In 2018, only 9% of respondents chose Instagram as their top social media channel.

But even though the field is changing with the addition of social channels and the need to manage vast quantities of data, the traditional approach to PR and comms still works. Most PR professionals (61%) still place journalists as the key target for their engagement efforts. The rest, 39% are dedicated to engage newer influencers, like bloggers, celebrities and social media influencers.

In the current media landscape conversations often are started by media coverage, which then is discussed in social media. Even though it also happens in the opposite direction, when journalists cover something that happened in social media, journalists remain key opinion leaders.


Bottom line:

If you’re a PR professional, you need to start looking at ways to prove your value through more accurate data that reflects the real impact of your work. Doing so will get you respect from the C-level executives and will help you secure a better budget. Even though traditional tactics like engaging journalists with press releases are still dominant, PR professionals must explore social media channels like Instagram to reach their audience directly or through key influencers.

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