Are we witnessing the death of media relations? Insights from the global PR industry

Paul Cheal, 20 April 2016

Is media relations a dying art? No, but it’s no longer the only game in town for PR practitioners, according to a world-first report into the state of the communications industry.

The global communications report reflects on the changing media and communications landscape and concludes that for communicators across the globe, the focus is shifting away from traditional media relations to content creation, social media strategy, and creative execution.

The report, released last week, surveyed more than 1,000 senior in-house and agency public relations executives around the world. It was conducted by the University of Southern California’s Center for Public Relations and was designed to provide unprecedented insight into the evolution of the global communications industry, by analysing emerging trends from both a client and agency perspective.

The report found significant agreement among both agency and client-side respondents that in coming years, there will be increased demand for:

  • content creation (81%);
  • social media (75%);
  • brand reputation (70%); and
  • measurement and evaluation (60%)

This broadening of the communications suite is something Honner has been talking about with clients for a number of years.

Earned, Owned and Paid: the new holy trinity of PR 

While media remains an important channel to reach stakeholders, organisations need to look at each communications channel and creatively engage with stakeholders across platforms – whether that be through social channels, on their website or through direct email or face-to-face communications.

This shift has become all the more important as local, mainstream news outlets continue to cut back on the number of journalists, leaving those remaining in newsrooms busier than ever before, and making it harder to get your voice heard in a busy news environment.

This shift to a broader communications approach is also reflected in the budgets of corporates globally where, on average, a third of the marketing and communications budget (31.9%) is being spent on earned media (media relations), approximately 32% is being spent on owned media (websites and blogs), 17% is being spent on paid media (advertising and sponsored posts) and 16.4% on shared media (social).

By 2020, the proportion of marketing and communications budget spent on media relations is predicted to fall to just over a quarter (26.6%)

Fred Cook, Director of the USC Center for Public relations, reinforced this finding in the report executive summary saying: “We are seeing a significant across-the-board directional shift away from traditional media relations to owned, social and paid media”.

This change to the communications landscape is happening rapidly, to the extent that only 27% of agency leaders globally believe by 2020, the term ‘public relations’ will clearly and adequately describe the work they do.

Measurement still evolving

Encouragingly, measurement and evaluation were seen as both a growth and improvement opportunity.

Agency and client-side respondents rated total reach as the most common form of measurement (68%), followed by impressions (65%) and content analysis (64%).

The report notes that, surprisingly, 30% still use advertising value equivalency – a “discredited metric within the industry”.

Social media monitoring remains largely unsophisticated. The most common metric is the simple count of followers (78%), followed by reach (77%) and interactions (76%).

For anyone interested in the future of communications, you can read the Executive Summary here or the full report here.

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