PRCA Digital PR and Communications Report 2017 launches 

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PRCA Digital PR and Communications Report 2017 launches

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has revealed the findings of its Digital PR and Communications Report 2017, with insights across the following key areas:

Fears of reputational attack on social media are causing more clients than ever before to tone down their activities

Rise in recognition of PR agencies as content creators this year

10% drop in confidence in the ability to measure the ROI of digital PR, now equal to traditional PR

The use of Instagram and Snapchat are down by 12% and 6% for organisations

The fifth annual PRCA Digital PR and Communications Report is sponsored by Richmond & Towers. The report, produced in partnership with YouGov, provides a benchmark of how the PR industry is performing with digital communications.

Attitudes and responsibilities

When asked about the reasons behind their organisation’s social media presence, most in-house respondents cite driving awareness (85%), increasing brand awareness (73%), and driving a wider audience reach (73%).

However, fear of attack from campaigners has risen by 9% as a reason why companies are not using social media more often, taking it to 12% - the highest figure in the history of the Digital PR and Communications Report. Lack of resources such as staff (40%) and budget (40%) are the most-cited reasons that brands are unable to use digital and social media more often.

45% of in-house respondents say that the majority of digital and social media content is produced by the PR and communications department. This is the same figure as last year, although this figure has dropped from 65% over the last five years.

Increasingly, other departments have been managing the responsibility for social media content, with 27% of respondents pointing towards the marketing team (up from 21% in 2016; and up from 13% in 2013). 18% cite the social media team (down from 23%). This suggests a growing trend towards social media being integrated across departments as organisations move away from having standalone social media teams.

In-house budgets

Brands continue to slowly increase their investment of marketing budgets in digital and social media. The mean percentage of spend on social media is 27%, up from 25% in 2016. Encouragingly, 55% of in-house respondents say their budget will increase over the next 12 months. Only 4% of respondents say their budget will decrease in the next year.

The main areas of digital and social media spend are video-based content (57%), image-based content (53%), and online advertising (51%).

Despite the recent growth in these areas, over the last five years there has been a widespread cutting of budgets into individual service areas: community management (-26%); monitoring (-28%); web development and build (-30%); social network strategy (-20%); SEO (-21%); online reputation management (-23%); training (-28%). This is possibly due to digital/social spend being stretched across a wider range of services.

Agencies and how they are being used

Agencies have seen a general rise in their usage as content-creators this year. The purchasing of video-based content has risen by 10% to 13%. The purchasing of image-based content has risen by 5% to 11%; and the use of text-based content has risen by 7% to 11%.

The other leading services clients purchase from PR and communications agencies are social influencer outreach (13%), and paid social media activity (13%).

56% of in-house contacts say they expect their PR agencies to deliver social influencer outreach services. Respondents also expect digital crisis management (51%) and online reputation management (51%) services from their PR and communications agencies. However, only 6% of respondents state that they currently use their agencies for these services.

In contrast, the leading digital services currently offered by agencies are online media relations (82%), social network strategy (80%), and text-based content (79%). 59% of agencies offer digital crisis management services, and 65% offer online reputation management services.

Over the last five years, big reductions have been seen in agencies offering the following services: community management (-25%); monitoring and listening to customers (-26%); SEO (-25%).


The use of Instagram by in-house teams has dropped from 65% to 53% this year, while the use of Snapchat dropped from 20% to 14%. Twitter (93%) and Facebook (75%) continue to be the most popular social media platforms among clients.

This year, confidence in the ability to measure the ROI of digital PR (such as banner ads, SEO, etc) dropped from 73% to 63%, so that it is now equal to that of confidence in the ability to measure the ROI of traditional PR. Meanwhile, 67% of in-house respondents say they can confidently measure the ROI of social media (such as organic and paid).

Most in-house respondents say that they could confidently measure the ROI of Twitter (60%) and Facebook (53%). Foursquare ranks the lowest in confidence (3%), followed by Whatsapp (7%).

For agencies, the popularity of using Instagram in campaigns has dropped from 73% to 59% this year, and the use of Snapchat has dropped from 28% to 22%. Despite the drop in the usage of Instagram and Snapchat, 71% and 43% of agencies said they would be using these platforms in the next 12 months.

Education and Insight

For those in-house, the most highly rated source of education is external training courses, which have increased by 28% this year to 64%. A majority of in-house respondents also gain their social media education from conferences and events (51%) and expert blogs (49%).

Clients feel that they need more education in the following areas: Social influencer outreach (27%), video-based content (23%), and SEO (23%). The interest in gaining more education in monitoring and listening to customers increased from 10% to 21% this year.

Like their clients, agencies gain most of their social media education from expert blogs (54%), external training courses (47%), and conferences and events (39%).

Agencies feel as they need more education in search engine optimisation (41%), PPC – paid search (31%), and social influencer outreach (21%).

Danny Whatmough CMPRCA, Chairman, PRCA Digital Group, and Head of Social, EMEA, Weber Shandwick, said:

“We live in complex times. We are now marketing and communicating in a digital world and that requires both in-house professionals and agencies to change the way they work. That means over the next 12 months we will see more talk of integration and collaboration in the content creation space. We will see a movement away from traditional offerings such as web build and a move towards chatbots, social messaging and AI. The Digital PR and Communications Report shows that the PR industry is leading the charge in many areas, but this is not a time for complacency. The industry needs to continue to evolve to compete.”

The Digital PR and Communications Report is launching at an event tonight (Tuesday, 24th October) at Golin in London.


About the PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is a UK-based PR and communications membership body, operating in 55 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR and communications industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry's behalf e.g. fighting the NLA's digital licence.