Editor’s note: Jamie Kightley is head of client services at IBA International, a U.K.-based technology PR firm. 

Roles of PR, marcom accelerated by pandemic 

The C-suite is no stranger to change. But is it more dependent on the strategic guidance from PR and marketing professionals than ever before? Has PR’s value extended beyond just informing the sales pipeline? 

Short answer: Yes. 

In 2020, public relations and marketing communications professionals found a seat at the C-suite table. In fact, 85% of PR professionals report that the C-suite relies on them for strategic counsel.

Quality communication around COVID-19 is essential, and early on the job fell to marketing and PR professionals. Communications teams around the world are working to keep reputations intact throughout the crisis, and this messaging will have a lasting legacy on how that organization is perceived. 

Research from IAB U.K. and YouGov shows that 80% of U.K. respondents are less likely to purchase from a company that had been insensitive during the crisis, with another 35% of respondents stating that they now pay more attention as to how companies behave. 

hand holding a gear with a silhouette painted on it

Improving agility and launching into a data-driven digital reality

Public relations encompasses many different publics, from employees to investors, customers, prospects, the media and analysts. PR was among the most agile sectors when initially adapting to new ways of working. Marketing communications teams were used to help and inform internal staff, keep morale high and ensure everyone knew the company was coping with the challenges, whether through furloughs or shorter weeks. 

But PR and marketing also stepped up to the customer plate to create digital events such as product launches, thought leadership summits and topical webinars. The digital trend is still popular and 71% of marketers believe virtual events are here to stay. And let’s not forget the media’s role in all of this – reaching essential audiences to communicate business as usual during difficult times, bringing together customers, prospects and new solutions and achieving essential third-party endorsements in target media.  

Digital provides speed and convenience

Over three quarters of B2B buyers and their sales counterparts say that they prefer the new, COVID-induced digital reality, not only for safety reasons but for ease, speed and convenience. But organizations are still juggling service disruption, brand reputation and relevancy, alongside workforce welfare. 

Finding effective digital communication methods and new ways of networking will continue to be essential when choosing to engage with people – whether that be customers, clients, staff or journalists. 

Digital collaboration and communication

With a widespread number of digital services advancing due to the pandemic, digital events continue to bring windfall of new solutions to the market all while communicating to the eager ears of potential audiences.  

New methods include the use of social media as a means of interaction between public relations professionals and journalists. The organic nature of the interaction can help solidify the PR-journalist relationship.  

Remote working has also forced countless Zoom calls, virtual events and internal and external online meetings. The demand for digital communication and collaboration continues to escalate. But other technology investments, particularly in data analytics, will be key.

Advanced data analytics for media watching

Data analytics provides insight into customer behaviors and allows for insightful and data-driven business decisions. So it is no shock that analytics tools are precious and integral assets to PR and communications professionals. In this digital age, just posting articles and hoping for the best is not enough. Advancements in digital technology are making insights more easily accessible, transforming the way businesses operate and, as such, are a crucial tool that PR and communications experts must incorporate into their strategies.

There are analytics tools that offer the ability to observe who is reading your stories and from where, while also pinpointing which messages are driving sales most successfully and why. When extended to PR, analytics results can allow for a more targeted approach, providing relevant media and journalist suggestions which can boost media placement opportunities.  

Measurement and analytics tools such as Power BI, HubSpot, Marketo can help businesses focus on long-term campaign results, indicating to company managers that PR professionals are achieving ROI through these efforts. 

Bringing data-drive analytics to the C-suite table

The pandemic hasn’t changed the roles of PR, marketing and CIOs, but it has accelerated their responsibilities far more quickly than anticipated – and they have certainly proven their worth during the last 12 months. 

CIOs saw an overnight growth in responsibilities and required agility. And in the U.S. over 90% of CIOs are now working closely with their CMO to improve the customer experience and promote innovation. And while businesses continue to adapt to the new normal, PR and comms professionals are top of the speed dial list. Company leaders are still reliant on this strategic counsel, but will they maintain that seat?

I believe they will. New developments in data-driven analytics will help marketing professionals align their proposed PR strategy with company and C-suite goals to ensure common ground. 

By adapting to emerging communications platforms, marketing teams will continue to keep communication flowing and adjust to the new ways of working.