Today the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) releases the 2022-2023 ICCO World PR Report.
This year’s report serves as a strong reminder that our industry is experiencing rapid growth, deserved recognition, and growing demand for PR and communications services. However, challenges persist, and progress requires hard work, dedication, and investment.
It is essential that we continue to upskill, embrace technology and analytics, be authentic and create an environment that will attract and retain talent in order to meet the challenges ahead. Keeping this focus in mind will help PR and communications professionals meet the increased demand, and in turn, raise the standards of clients.
Coming hot on the heels of two years of Covid related business disruption, 2022 has not been the year for which we had hoped. Just as things began to look more promising and organisations were emerging with increasing confidence, the world has once again been rocked. War in Ukraine, logistics / supply chain issues, and labour shortages have led to a resulting cost of living crisis, spiralling inflation, and economic uncertainty. As I type, there is no respite in sight, and organisations around the world are buttoning down the hatches and preparing for a looming recession and a very challenging 2023.
The human costs on our colleagues have been stark and are clearly called out in this report’s section on mental health. As an industry, we are becoming better at offering the right support to these human challenges. But are we getting better at looking after the health of our agencies? It would appear not.
Right now, all around the world, finance directors are reviewing budgets and financial plans. In this unprecedented era of uncertainty, discretionary spending is being done away with. Any activity that doesn’t drive organisational value is seen as a luxury, not a necessity. Any marketing discipline that conducts activity without demonstrating the organisational value of that work is being seen for what it is – a waste of time and money. And the people and agencies providing it as busy fools, not value creators.
According to this report, what do organisations require from their PR agencies? Well, the research shows that the top three client objectives are improving corporate reputation, increasing sales and building brand purpose. Yet when we come to look at the metrics that agencies are providing, none of the top five speak to these simple business objectives. Engagement metrics, media clips, AVEs, sentiment analysis and media summaries do not demonstrate how comms supports and drives reputation, increases sales or builds brand purpose. They are all metrics that point to activity, not effectiveness. It’s only when we get to the lowly sixth and below positions that we see any attempt to link outputs to outcomes – with web traffic, awareness, business results, advocacy and sales all listed.
This is a wake up call. It is time to lean in and take action. For comms to remain relevant it has to start demonstrating how its work supports organisational objectives. It has to go beyond the ‘counts and amounts’ of activity driven metrics and point to the value it creates.
It may appear hard, but lots of help is at hand. ICCO’s strategic partner AMEC has been driving global best practice in measurement of comms and provides a multitude of free tools and resources to help the industry. They are all available on AMEC’s website in multiple languages. I urge you to join the 43% of the global PR agency industry that do use these meaningful measurement techniques. Help is at hand from international AMEC members, not least ICCO’s global and exclusive partner CARMA, where I am proud to work.
Richard Bagnall is the global co-managing partner for CARMA International, a leading global provider of media intelligence and communications evaluation services, and the former chairman of the industry’s global trade association, AMEC. Richard has advised international clients on the best ways to measure the effectiveness of their PR and prove its value to the organisation for more than 25 years. During this time, he has built and led some of the world’s foremost communications measurement consultancies, including Metrica, Gorkana and PRIME Research. Prior to his career in measurement and insights, Richard was a PR himself, having worked both in-house and in agencies.
Richard has contributed to several published business books on measuring communications and is an active long-term member of the UK Government’s Cabinet Office Evaluation Council. He co-authored the UK Government’s Capability Review of Digital Communications. Richard is a Fellow of the PRCA, an Honorary Lifetime Fellow of AMEC and has been inducted into PR News’ Measurement Hall of Fame.
CARMA is the world’s most experienced media intelligence service provider. Established in 1984 and relaunched in 2016, the company has grown today to work with over 3,500 brands and organisations across the world. CARMA helps its clients use media intelligence to navigate and understand the disrupted media landscape, operate strategically, and demonstrate success with industry-leading Media Monitoring and communications evaluation programs. CARMA blends expert technologies, powering real-time data insights, with a global team of experienced PR measurement consultants. Led by Co-Managing Partners – former FIBEP Chair Mazen Nahawi and former AMEC Chair Richard Bagnall – and with 500+ staff across five continents, CARMA’s unparalleled experience, expertise and client service makes it the first-choice media intelligence provider for any organisation looking to understand the media and refine and prove the value of their public relations.