PUBLIC relations agencies are being increasing given responsibility for handling the digital profile of their clients, including blogging on their behalf and designing and building websites.
This is the conclusion of a survey conducted by the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA).
This latest piece of work is the PRCA’s third digital report, and its headlines read:
* In-house budgeting for blogger outreach continues to grow and PR agencies increasingly entrusted with this work;
* Web design and build is a huge growth area for PR agencies as service is increasingly combined with PR;
* Huge expectation that digital budgets will grow over the next 12 months; and
* In-house and agency staff alike do not feel they get enough training around digital.
Attitudes and responsibilities
When asked why their brands are on social media, in-house leaders surveyed are now far less likely than ever to point to negative reasons such as being attacked on social media (six per cent) and responding to disgruntled employees (four per cent); while the biggest reasons are for general marketing purposes (94 per cent), speeding awareness of what they do (67 per cent), and as a customer service platform (56 per cent).
Now, more than ever, in-house teams surveyed see themselves as the owners of digital/social media strategy and execution, with agencies providing supporting roles.
This raises some important questions about the role of the PR agency in digital, going forward.
The mean percentage of marketing budgets spent on digital/ social media remains at 16 per cent, the same as last year. Despite this, most (64 per cent) expect their digital budget to grow in the next 12 months. Around nine per cent on average of any additional marketing investment is spent on social/digital, roughly equitable with last year, which was 11 per cent.
The report reveals that in-house investment in influencer (e.g. blogger) outreach/engagement has seen growth of 11 per cent over the past two years – from 41 per cent in 2013, to 50 per cent in 2014, and to 52 per cent in 2015.
Meanwhile, investment in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO0 has dropped year-on-year from 67 per cent in 2013, to 53 per cent in 2015. Over the last two years, there has also been a significant and sustained reduction in marketing budget being spent on web design and build which is down by 24 per cent (79 per cent in 2013 and 55 per cent in 2015). Both offerings appear to have become less of a standalone requirement.
Agencies and how they’re being used
In the past year in particular, we have seen huge growth in in-house PR departments expecting PR agencies to be able to deliver many digital service areas, with the biggest growth in expectation around SEO (20 per cent growth); blogger outreach (18 per cent growth); online advertising/PPC (14 per cent growth); and online reputation management (14 per cent).
On the PR agency side, 54 per cent are now offering SEO services, 82 per cent offer blogger outreach/engagement; 47 per cent offer online ads/PPC; and 76 per cent offer online reputation management.
The biggest digital service offering for agencies remains to be content creation, which 91 per cent of agencies provide. The biggest growth as a service offering is web design and build – up 12 per cent since last year to 71 per cent. Indeed, in-house staff are reporting eight per cent growth over the past two years in use of PR agencies for web design and build services – from five per cent to 13 per cent.
Combined with the news above that there has been a drop in in-house investment in web design and build (from 64 per cent in 2014 to 55 per cent in 2015) it may be inferred that this service is now far more likely to be bought in combination with PR services, and also tends to be less costly than in previous years.
There has been some small growth in digital services as a percentage of PR agency revenue over the past year: 22.1 per cent to 22.9 per cent.
Over the last year, in-house teams surveyed have seen the biggest growth in use of LinkedIn (14 per cent growth) and blogs (nine per cent growth). 77 per cent expect to use LinkedIn in the coming year, while 73 per cent expect to use Instagram.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter and Facebook remain on top, with 96 per cent and 90 per cent of in-house teams having used those platforms over the past year. The biggest in-house platform losers are Pinterest and Google+, with a drop of seven per cent and six per cent in usage respectively over the past year.
For agencies, the leading campaign platforms over the past year are Twitter (98 per cent); LinkedIn (89 per cent) and blogs (86 per cent), while it is interesting to note that Facebook use is somewhat lower at 77 per cent.
Agencies expect LinkedIn to be the leading platform in the coming year, with 93 per cent of them expecting to use it for the company’s digital PR activity.
We have seen huge growth in the use of standalone in-house social media teams overseeing platform management, with particular growth in them taking over LinkedIn which may be from the PR/communications department (17 per cent growth over two years).
The majority (52 per cent) of content production remains in the hands of in-house comms teams in organisations that use social media, but 24 per cent of this now sits with the social media team.
In-house comms staffers surveyed remain marginally more confident that they can measure the ROI of traditional PR activities (72 per cent) than they are for digital/social (67 per cent); with the greatest degree of confidence in digital PR is around measuring ROI around Facebook campaigns (67 per cent), and the least around LinkedIn (36 per cent).
When asked to rate their top three, the majority of in-house comms people gain most of their social media education and insight from expert blogs (52 per cent), although there is 12 per cent growth in use of expert white papers since last year (From 17 per cent to 29 per cent).
When asked which three things they need more education in, the biggest percentage of in-house comms people need more education/insight around blogger outreach (36 per cent), while need for professional development around online advertising and PPC has grown by the most (seven per cent) to (20 per cent versus 13 per cent).
For agency people, when asked about their three top sources for social media education, expert blogs are also the most popular, at 76 per cent.
There has been a drop in event-based training: conferences and events have dropped by six per cent to 41 per cent; and seminars and roundtables have dropped in rating by 16 per cent to 27 per cent.
Half of agency people require more education/insight around SEO (50 per cent).
For 35 per cent of agency staff, training in digital/social remains to be a small amount of their overall training, only around 25 per cent.
Source: PRCA Third Digital Report, published September 15 2015.