When the great and the good from around the world came together for this year’s International Communications Consultancy Organisation summit in Milan, Food for Thought was very much an appropriate theme.
Amongst the plethora of issues that were discussed, there was a definite sense that the industry is in a strong position. Backed up by the numbers from the World PR Report, which show the PR industry’s revenue is up 7% to $13bn, there was a general sense of optimism. Whilst the job never becomes any easier, there was a feeling that PR is now better placed than it ever has been before.
Why is that?
1. The huge growth in the number of channels we communicate through
As Jeremy Thompson, MD of AMEC described in his presentation, the massive fragmentation of traditional and online media, and proliferation of new channels, has put ‘earned’ media very much in the spotlight. Where before paid media could be easily concentrated across radio, print, television and film, the array of outlets we consume through the internet has made PR increasingly valuable for content generation.
2. Talking ‘with’ not ‘to’
Likewise, as social media continues to grow as a communications space, PR’s ability to create and sustain a conversation makes the industry best placed to support organisations in the online age. The fascinating talk by YouTube’s Susan Agliata on the power of influencers reiterated that now more than ever before, our communications advice is always around our clients’ conversations – speak, listen, and respond.
3. Measuring success
Quantifying and qualifying what we do for clients has always been important, and I can honestly say I have never been involved in a pitch process where “return on investment” was not a key part of the discussion. That said, how we measure the impact of our work has now been completely transformed. From the updated set of Barcelona Principles covered by Dr David Rockland, to the myriad of services that have been created to monitor and predict the quantity and tone of coverage and content secured, we now have many more tools at our disposal to demonstrate to clients how we are really adding value.
So while the industry remains hugely competitive, and we continue to compete with advertisers and increasingly digital agencies, the PR sector is thriving. The transformation of the communications landscape continues to provide a wealth of opportunities for PR agencies that are able to adapt and evolve to meet these expanding horizons. With these new possibilities come the new tools to evidence and evaluate success. All this provides a clear explanation for why more and more of the world’s senior communications professionals are reporting right to the top.