Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
Integrated campaigns may involve many channels, combine creative inputs from many sources and even have more than one client. So it is no surprise there are many hurdles to overcome to create a cohesive campaign that ticks everyone’s boxes. Below we list ten particular PR challenges.
1. It can push people out of their comfort zones
Renate van der Wal, director at integrated agency TEAM LEWIS UK: “PR professionals know how to build relationships and tell stories which create cut-through and protect a brand’s reputation. Gone are the days when media relations is the sole focus for this. The modern PR professional has a multi-channel and commercial mindset and aligns strategy with the customer journey. They can analyse campaign goals and objectives in agnostic ways. They also know how to have conversations with those in the broader marketing mix.
“And that is often where the challenge lies. It pushes (some) people out of their comfort zones.
“I see developing integrated campaigns as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of PR. All disciplines within marketing share the common goal to put a favourable image of the brand out in the world. As brand reputation guardians, the capability of PR professionals to create and ‘sell’ compelling narratives that harness that reputation throughout all elements of an integrated campaign is immensely valuable. It helps make a profession that is often criticised for not being measurable enough, more accountable. Through an integrated campaign, the capability to influence target audiences and their opinions is more than the sum of its parts.”
2. PR must be included at the planning stage
Paul Lucas, partner at PR agency Fanclub: “Bolted-on; last to the table; an after-thought, speak to any seasoned PR and they’ve all been faced with this little gem in an inter-agency meeting - and this is the bit you can get coverage for.
“The challenge with integrated communications for PR isn’t that we don’t have a seat at the table, it’s the point in time at which we are invited to sit at it.
“Unless PRs start demonstrating from the outset how an earned-first idea can be executed creatively across the marketing mix versus just the coverage it can achieve (including key insights and data), we’ll remain seated in that extra chair that’s rolled into the meeting as an after-thought.
“As Taylor Herring CEO James Herring recently rightly said: ‘…it’s a lot easier to turn earned into paid than it is to turn paid into earned’. It’s our job to prove it, otherwise the paid-for merchants will forever be our masters.”
3. A good structure must be put in place
Paul Hutchings, founder of communications agency, fox&cat: “With so many PRs under pressure, and with client spending capacity reducing in line with recession fears, we need to deliver great work first time without adding to workload. This needs agility, flexibility and an innovate-value proposition. Pulling in focused specialists at the start of a project ensures the latest intel is front of mind, then open dialogue between specialists and experienced client handlers throughout means a simpler yet more fruitful execution. It is possible to deliver industry-leading projects, with minimal unnecessary pressure and often with a cost saving to clients. “
4. Consistency is vital
Olivia Bence, senior PR manager at agency Campfire: “Integrated communications can be incredibly impactful, powerful and a successful form of activity for a brand. However, there can be some small hurdles to overcome when creating integrated activity or campaigns. One being, ensuring messaging is consistent across all channels, what works for media, won’t work for a TikTok or social media audience. So, understanding what key messaging or pillars are for content is key for ensuring consistency.
“With integrated communications you are having to think of multiple platforms and how each one is different, which naturally brings challenges. However, understanding each platform can help create a strategy that brings exceptional results. It allows for campaigns to be created where a product or brand is never not seen. I would say the challenges from integrated communications are worth it for the results. This type of activity is something we are championing.”
5. It is hard for PR to suggest creative ideas
Caitlin Singh, communications executive at B2B agency Definition Agency: “As integrated communications become part and parcel of the extremely fast-moving media landscape, there has been limited thought leaders in this area to ‘pave the way’. This could possibly be making it harder for PRs to follow one single approach.
“There can also be challenges in the way creativity and strategy is viewed from a PR perspective. For those in PR constantly being shown the ‘new’, no one could blame people for being sceptical towards the value of another approach - this could be an ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality.”
6. PR needs to prove its value
Lottie West, global head of PR at marketing agency Fox Agency: “With client budgets under increasing pressure, the importance of demonstrating ROI has never been greater. But this is not a new issue - the PR industry has perennially grappled with measurement, as any of us old enough to remember AVEs can attest. Drawing a direct line from PR to sales without considering the full marketing funnel is a fallacy, and we can’t - and shouldn’t - think of PR as separate from the broader customer journey, particularly in B2B. Awareness is crucial in reaching new audiences, and reputation is a vital tool in building trust, but to really drive impact, we need to make sure that PR is working hand-in-hand with other tactics, whether that’s an integrated content strategy, using search trends to guide PR approach, or amplifying PR content on social channels. The key challenge to overcome is breaking down any silos between marketing and comms in clients’ businesses, which is why it is vital to demonstrate value.”
7. Timings can be tricky
Matthew Layton, managing director of full service marketing agency Rewind Creative: “Channels like Twitter and TikTok can be extremely reactive to trends and news, and translating this to PR sometimes can be tricky with timings. A way that we have found to get around this and achieve success is to build pre-empted topics, databases and prepare as much as possible, so we can still try and catch the news whilst still relevant.”
8. It is vital to focus on key points
Matthew Layton: “We’ve found PR allows us to go extremely into depth on topics, and translating this to a social campaign can be too much information, and from a very different angle to what works on social media. Key topics have to be decided at the briefing and strategy stage, and even breaking the PR push down into several pieces of content allows for a more streamlined approach that is digestible for users.”
9. Media interests and client interests can clash
Richard Cook, director of agency Champion Communications: “PRs know that the most interesting subject in the world is ‘me and my problem’. This often means using the consequences of the issue the client is solving to generate attention and interest and to use this as a Trojan horse to deliver the benefits and messaging of a campaign.
“This approach can be uncomfortable for brands that don’t want to be perceived as negative. A balance needs to be struck which serves both perspectives, but fundamentally, the audience or prospect will determine if they are going to engage with content. If they are exposed to relatable content and feel: ‘this could be me, this is me, I wish that were me’, then the chances of engagement are much higher than if they look at something and think ‘who cares, so what, good for you’.
“So the challenge with integrated marketing is basically, are you going to let the PR experts shape the narrative, or, do you want the media to write about your new logo? If it’s the latter, don’t bother.”
10. Measurement may still be a challenge
Amy Stone, senior communications consultant at communications agency Hard Numbers: “Measuring and evaluating the success of an integrated campaign has historically been a big challenge for PR, particularly since social media exploded onto the scene. With multiple channels producing multiple metrics and outcomes, it has been difficult to accurately track and measure the success of a campaign, or even to go one step further and demonstrate a return on investment.
“Thankfully, PR is evolving. Holistic, but detailed measurement is possible with a variety of tools. From media and social media monitoring to Google Analytics, a combination of this technology can harness the wealth of data your campaign produces across all its channels and produce highly valuable insights for your clients.
“Today, truly successful integrated campaigns have measurement built into their strategy from the get-go. While still challenging, measuring the success of integrated campaigns is becoming easier all the time and should be something we, as PRs, embrace with open arms.”
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