Top 10 PR industry insights - Co-CEO Alexandra Mayhew hears from global expert at Annual IPREX meeting in Brussels.

Paul Holmes, founder and chair of The Holmes Group, has been writing about public relations for more than 25 years. He provides analysis of global critical trends and issues in the industry.

Things are changing - FAST
The pace of change for the public relations industry has never been quicker than it has been these past four-to-five years. The level of disruption is unprecedented thanks to the rise of social and digital media.

You cannot control your brand
Brand is no longer the sum of your communications – it’s what people are saying on social media and what stakeholders tell you. No longer can you control your brand; the best we can hope for is to influence it.

Keep it above board
While Wells Haslem Mayhew always operates to the most ethical standards, the importance of good PR over poor PR is more important now than ever before. Astroturfing (the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organisation to make it appear as though it originates from legitimate – grassroots - participants), spin (a form of propaganda), and general bad behaviour is more quickly discovered and called out due to the internet and, in particular, social media (ability to clarify information and ease at publicly shaming).

Don’t freak out – just update
Despite all of this, the foundation of public relations remains the same (for Wells Haslem Mayhew this means clear, consistent, strategic communications) – practitioners may just need to update some tools and techniques. Modern PR firms need to have great digital and social and paid media. Advertising services can also be beneficial.

It’s about people
Sustainable PR firms should be hiring:

  • Data and analytics professionals
  • Social media storytellers
  • Web designers
  • Those with an understanding of social science
  • Digital people with skills in animation and infographics
  • Videographers

And your people need to be great. Great people will attract great clients.

Come to grips with data and analytics
The best data equals the best insights. Strategy follows research (nothing new here for most of us, it’s just a newer element of intelligence gathering).
Small data is still worthwhile. This is intimate user data. We don’t need a focus group to tell us what we need to know. We have a sense of how the media will respond. Transferring this into data is where many PRers are missing the opportunity.

It’s about relationships, not releases
It’s vital our clients (or bosses) understand that the end product of public relations activities is the relationship, not the press release. 

Small is good
Big PR firms lack the expertise for relationships. A multinational run out London is not going to understand the nuances of the Australian political system like a local SME.
Independent PR firms are growing at 7-8 per cent per annum – twice the growth of the multinationals.

Reconsider who you’re targeting
Corporate budgets are remaining static, but marketing budgets are growing. Now more than ever we need to educate marketers about PR.

Get better at measurement
All PR firms can better the measurement and evaluation elements of their work.•

IPREX is a $350 million network of communication agencies, with 1,800 staff and 115 offices worldwide. Co-CEO Alexandra Mayhew attended the IPREX 2017 Annual Meeting in Brussels in May where she compared industry notes with IPREX partners and solidified Wells Haslem Mayhew’s place in the global organisation. To ensure we maintain our international perspective, we will be attending the IPREX 2018 Annual Meeting in Dubai.