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Yla O'Riordan

Published on

November 12, 2018


communications, digital, PR, PRCA

This year, the PRCA launched its sixth annual Digital PR and Communications report. Along with Ginger Comms, the PRCA surveyed nearly 400 PR professionals, working both in-house and in agencies. The aim of the report was to find out what’s new in digital PR, where it’s going, and what’s being left behind.

This year, there were some surprising results that put the future of chatbots, influencers and measurement firmly up for debate.

Chatbots: Slayer or saviour for customer service on social?

Customer service is the face of a brand, and now it seems that the norm is to receive this service via social media. For consumers in particular, when your expected clothes delivery doesn’t come on time, you’re ready to take to Twitter to find out why. However, only 35 per cent of respondents said they use social media for customer service this year, a decrease from last year’s 45 per cent.

In an age where the most common reply on any brand’s Instagram posts is “DM us your order number”, how is it possible that the use of social for customer service is decreasing? Perhaps it could be linked to another one of the survey’s findings: that 45 per cent of in-house teams do not have the time to use social more often, up from 34 per cent last year.

If there’s been a ten per cent drop in the customer-service-on-social offerings, how are users interacting with brands? The answer could be automation. When customers know they have a relatively simple query, it’s often far easier to go on the website and have a quick interaction with a chatbot than wait around for a reply on social media.

However, we’re already starting to see a marrying of the two. If we succeed in combining the speed of chatbots with the accessibility of social media – something that Facebook and TfL have successfully implemented – we’re on our way to creating the perfect place for customer service.

Is the influencer bubble about to burst?

Two of the biggest areas where in-house teams are seeing budget cuts are blogger outreach (-9 per cent) and social influencer outreach (-12 per cent). These figures are odd considering that when agencies were asked what clients expect of them, blogger and social influencer outreach were top priorities. In addition, in-house teams stated that social influencer outreach and engagement is the top area in which they need more education and insight (39 per cent, compared to 2017’s 27 per cent).

So why, if there is a growth in interest and more need for education, are budgets being cut? The answer is likely to be difficulties with measurement. While in-house teams are keen to ride the influencer wave, they are uncertain of what success looks like. Research by the Business Insider Intelligence Unit found that between 2017 and 2018, marketers have made huge changes in how they measure the success of an influencer campaign. While engagement, conversions and audience sentiment increased in importance, clicks and reach nosedived.

The confusion around measurement means that it’s difficult for marketing teams to get the wider company’s buy-in, so it’s no wonder budgets are being slashed. This is definitely a growth area for the industry, and it’s not just influencer outreach we’re struggling to measure…

Metric madness: How do we measure ROI?

When in-house teams were asked if they could measure the ROI of their communications methods, 63 per cent said yes for traditional PR and social media. Yet for digital, the communications function offering us metrics such as clicks, engagements and conversions, only 58 per cent of respondents said yes, a drop from last year’s 63 per cent.

So why has digital got us in a spin? It appears that as an industry we need to align and improve our metrics. Terms such as ‘impressions’ and ‘views’ have different definitions across various platforms – when we’re provided with a definition at all. The findings from this year’s Digital PR and Communications report suggest that digital comms is still lagging behind when it comes to measurement, stuck in the equivalent of PR’s traditional AVE days.

The next step

What’s next for digital PR and comms? There are several key solutions, but It’s up to the PR industry, particularly agency side, to agree on measurement terms. This will enable us to place more and more value on our work and ensure in-house teams are getting the budgets to make the biggest impact. Without cold, hard numbers, marketers will struggle to get buy-in from the boardroom, and without buy-in from the boardroom, marketing budgets won’t get the go-ahead to grow.

Coincidentally, November is AMEC’s measurement month, so why not put the steps in place now that will pay off in the years to come?

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