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How data professionals can transform PR firms

Not another article about the need for more sophisticated reporting and measurement in the PR industry I hear you say? I don't blame you think thinking this as I have the same feeling as I type these words. What on earth can anyone say that has not been said a million times before?

I am as bored as you about the endless discussion. That's why I actually did something about it. I got to the stage of believing that some problems cannot be fixed by ourselves. Years spent sending people on training courses trying to mould PR people into data analysts didn't work. Most PR people are not inherently interested or capable of proving the real value of the work we do. That's why things aren't changing fast enough.

So, what did we do? We went and acquired a SEO agency and with it a lot of people who are actually interested in data, reporting and showcasing the value of the content campaigns they are running for clients. I wish i had done this a long time ago instead of using trying to put a square peg into a round hole for so long.

Having a team of SEO experts within our agency has been transformational in many ways. The PR and SEO teams are learning from each other and when it is appropriate, they are working together on joint campaigns. 

We are now able to much better understand the impact of our PR work by being able to set up, track and measure campaigns by having a well of expertise that we can draw from on an ongoing basis.

A lot has been written about the potential benefits that PR can bring to improve SEO performance and it is clear that earned-media link building and influencer campaigns have a lot to offer. However, this is just a small part of the SEO agency offering and until the PR industry starts employing people that fully understand SEO, then SEO managers on the client side won’t take PR seriously enough. But that is a subject for another day.

I appreciate that not all PR campaigns should be, or can be, measured by analytics, but when client-side PROs are under more pressure than ever before to prove some sort of value, then it is becoming more paramount to at least try and help to define impact better.

So many of our industry awards are judged first and foremost on creativity rather than on results measurement, but that is slowly changing. Getting client sign-off and buy-in without being able to demonstrate value (whether tied to brand or commercial analytics) is getting harder and harder.

It's time to bring new people into our industry to fully effect the change it needs, rather than simply sending someone on a training course for a few hours to gain a superficial knowledge that is quickly forgotten.

Jim Hawker, co-founder of PR agency Threepipe

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