London, 14 September 2015
The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) has revealed the findings of its Digital PR Report 2015, with insights across the following key areas:
- 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
- In-house and agency staff alike do not feel they get enough training around digital
The third annual PRCA Digital Report, produced in partnership with YouGov, provides a benchmark of how the PR industry is performing with digital communications.
To view the report, a Powerpoint presentation and other materials, please click here.
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 (6%) and responding to disgruntled employees (4%); while the biggest reasons are for general marketing purposes (94%), speeding awareness of what they do (67%), and as a customer service platform (56%).
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%, the same as last year. Despite this, most (64%) expect their digital budget to grow in the next 12 months. Around 9% on average of any additional marketing investment is spent on social / digital, roughly equitable with last year, which was 11%.
The report reveals that in-house investment in influencer (e.g. blogger) outreach/engagement has seen growth of 11% over the past two years – from 41% in 2013, to 50% in 2014, and to 52% in 2015.
Meanwhile, investment in Search Engine Optimisation has dropped year-on-year from 67% in 2013, to 53% 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% (79% in 2013 and 55% 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% growth); blogger outreach (18% growth); online advertising/PPC (14% growth); and online reputation management (14%).
On the PR agency side, 54% are now offering SEO services, 82% offer blogger outreach/ engagement; 47% offer online ads/PPC; and 76% offer online reputation management.
The biggest digital service offering for agencies remains to be content creation, which 91% of agencies provide. The biggest growth as a service offering is web design and build – up 12% since last year to 71%. Indeed, in-house staff are reporting 8% growth over the past two years in use of PR agencies for web design and build services – from 5% to 13%.
Combined with the news above that there has been a drop in in-house investment in web design and build (from 64% in 2014 to 55% 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% to 22.9%.
Over the last year, in-house teams surveyed have seen the biggest growth in use of LinkedIn (14% growth) and blogs (9% growth). 77% expect to use LinkedIn in the coming year, while 73% expect to use Instagram.
Unsurprisingly, Twitter and Facebook remain on top, with 96% and 90% 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 7% and 6% in usage respectively over the past year.
For agencies, the leading campaign platforms over the past year are Twitter (98%); LinkedIn (89%) and blogs (86%), while it is interesting to note that Facebook use is somewhat lower at 77%.
Agencies expect LinkedIn to be the leading platform in the coming year, with 93% 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% growth over two years).
The majority (52%) of content production remains in the hands of in-house comms teams in organisations that use social media, but 24% 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%) than they are for digital/social (67%); with the greatest degree of confidence in digital PR is around measuring ROI around Facebook campaigns (67%), and the least around LinkedIn (36%).
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%), although there is 12% growth in use of expert white papers since last year (From 17% to 29%). 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%), while need for professional development around online advertising and PPC has grown by the most (7%) to (20% Vs. 13%).
For agency people, when asked about their three top sources for social media education, expert blogs are also the most popular, at 76%. There has been a drop in event-based training: conferences and events have dropped by 6% to 41%; and seminars and roundtables have dropped in rating by 16% to 27%. Half of agency people require more education/insight around SEO (50%).
For 35% of agency staff, training in digital/social remains to be a small amount of their overall training, only around 25%.
Danny Whatmough CMPRCA, Head of Social, EMEA, Weber Shandwick, and Chairman of the PRCA Digital Group, said: “Brands are continuing to evolve in their handling of digital communications, with more expectation being heaped on their PR agencies to deliver a broad range of activities from blogger outreach to web design and build.
“There’s an interesting debate to be had around the longer term role of PR agencies working alongside in-house teams that continue to strengthen their digital skills. And the issue of training continues to be an issue for many who need to improve their skills.”
YouGov partnered with PRCA to survey 280 agency and in-house PR professionals across business services, finance and banking, technology and telecoms, charities and NGOs, Government and other sectors. In-house respondents include directors of marketing/comms, heads of marketing/comms, head of press/PR. Agency respondents include CEOs, MDs, Partners and Directors.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size in 2015 was 280 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th July and 14th August 2015. Total sample in 2014 was 228 adults, taken between 10th June and 9th July 2014. Total sample in 2013 was 136 adults, taken between 23rd September and 10th October 2013. The surveys were carried out online.
Who we are: Founded in 1969, the PRCA is the largest PR association in Europe, representing 18,000 people in agencies, in-house communications teams, and individuals. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and internal 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.
Who we represent: The PRCA represents many of the major consultancies in the UK, and currently has more than 350 agency members from around the world, including the majority of the top 150 UK consultancies. We also represent over 250 in-house communications teams from multinationals, UK charities and leading UK public sector organisations.