Why the shortage of skills in digital marketing is good news for PR agencies

Businesses are aware of the power of digital and social media marketing, the problem is that they don’t have the resources, or skills, to realise this power.

According to recent research by digital skills specialists Emarketeers, while 2014 is predicted to be another good year for advertising in the UK, with digital marketing at the forefront of growth, it reveals companies may struggle to properly implement digital campaigns. This is good news for agencies, as more companies will rely on outsourcing to meet their digital needs.

The research highlights four key findings:

1. There is a lack of investment in resource, skills and knowledge. Resourcing for digital and social media teams is still low; 52 per cent of people polled said their company had a dedicated digital team and 46 per cent had a social team. One of the surprise findings of the research was that only 20 per cent of organisations are planning to recruit in 2014 which is out of step with 20 per cent growth predicted. Digital marketing is also suffering from a skills shortage as senior roles are being left unfilled. 

2. Training and skills development is a low priority. Confidence in knowledge and expertise is much higher in the broader digital marketing sector than rapid growth areas such as social media or mobile. Formal training is low on the agenda; only 75 per cent of respondents receive training, and investment per capita is under £300. Digital marketers are largely in charge of their own development at the moment using virtual and self-service tools.

3. The top priorities in digital are social media, visibility and performance. Social media is a priority with a strong focus on owned and earned media. It has also been adopted by 86 per cent of the organisations polled. The top digital marketing priorities are visibility, performance and measurement, with an optimum website populated with SEO-friendly content as two of the key ambitions. Funding for digital marketing is an increasing challenge, in part due to lack of accountability and transparency of the value digital marketing delivers.

4. A greater dependence on outsourcing. Respondents were very clear that the integration of the old and new loom large on the horizon for them in 2014; specifically when it comes to blending social media and content marketing into the mix. Agencies are set to benefit as activities such as SEO, PPC, web/content management and social media are being outsourced. 

Discussing the research, Tracey Stern, director of Emarketeers, says: “Evidently, marketing teams are under pressure, but those with foresight and who move fast will benefit in the coming months.”

Stern suggests six steps that marketers can take to get the greatest advantage of digital opportunities:

1. Close the skills gap – expedite knowledge transfer to take advantage of the opportunities, while growing and nurturing talent.

2. Improve resources – get ready for growth and bolster up teams, boost training and rethink recruitment strategy to address the gaps.

3. Target funding – invest in understanding digital; accountability and transparency of ROI is the key to unlocking valuable budgets.

4. Focus on training – prioritise training to close the skills gap and create more formalised training programmes.

5. Integrate – build strong internal relationships for greater digital integration, and focus on blending the new and traditional disciplines.

6. Outsource – look for agencies with the right mix of services to close gaps, but develop a relationship as a partnership too.

Stern concludes: “While the PR industry has traditionally been the home of analogue content and earned media, it’s clear the marketing industry at large needs these skills, but in digital format. This is also bolstered by the fact that 15 per cent of roles being recruited for in 2014 are for online PR and social, which is a sure sign of confidence in this area.”


The first annual Emarketeers digital iSkills survey was conducted between September and November 2013, in association with digital agency Home of Social. The survey polled 108 people from a variety of sectors and size of organisation within the digital marketing community. 39 per cent of people polled were at senior manager or executive level within their organisation, 30 per cent were junior or manager level, with 47 per cent working in the pure play marketing sector and 24 per cent within digital services.

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