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What does the PRCA Digital PR and Communications Report 2017 mean for accessible and inclusive communications?

The PRCA’s Digital PR and Communications Report 2017 is a key industry gauge for all PR and communications professionals.

It has been developed by the PRCA and global research house YouGov to become the leading insight into the digital strengths of the PR and communications industry. The 2017 report, which was sponsored by Richmond & Towers, saw 362 agency and in-house PR professionals surveyed from across business services, finance and banking, technology and telecoms, charities and NGOs, Government and other sectors.

Digital reach is everything

We now live in a digital, networked world and the report shows that the demand for digital PR services continues to grow. That’s not surprising when you look at the size of the UK’s digital audience. According to the OFCOM Communications Market Report 2017 nearly 90% of adults have internet access at home, and the UK’s digital audience is over 50 million people, who spend more than 80 hours online per person, per month.

Even audiences that have previously been hard for brands to reach via digital platforms are now joining the digital world. The OFCOM Access and Inclusion in 2016 Report shows the take up of internet services by disabled and older consumers and those in socioeconomic group DE2 continues to increase. The OFCOM market report echoes these findings, highlighting that more than half (53%) of over 74’s now have internet access at home, up from 45% in 2016.

Every PR campaign must now have a strong digital and social media strategy at its heart to effectively reach audiences. This is evident in the report, with most in-house respondents saying they use social media to: drive awareness of what brands do (85%), increase brand awareness (73%), and drive wider audience reach (73%).

Digital and social budgets are growing and agencies are creating more digital content

The report also shows that brands continue to slowly increase their investment in digital and social media, with 55%­ of in-house respondents saying their budgets will increase over the next 12 months. And that means more opportunities for agencies to supply digital content. Agencies have already seen a general rise in their use as content-creators this year:

·         The purchasing of video-based content rose by 10%­ to 13­%

·         The purchasing of image-based content rose by 5­% to 11­%

·         The purchasing of text-based content rose by 7­% to 11­%    

This puts agencies in a unique position. They have the opportunity to persuade brands that some of the extra digital and social media budgets need to be spent making accessible and inclusive content. They can lead clients to ensure the widest possible audience can access digital content in order to maximise awareness and audience reach. But why do accessible and inclusive communications matter so much now?

The UK is more diverse than you might think

To understand we need to look at the UK’s changing population – it’s ageing, growing and increasingly diverse. Back to the OFCOM market report. It stated:

“In the UK, 14.3 million people are aged 60 or over; 2.9 million are aged 80 or over. From 2012 to 2032 the populations of 65-84 year olds and the over-85s are set to increase by 39% and 106% respectively, whereas 0-14 and 15-64 year olds are set to increase by 11% cent and 7% respectively.”

Also, around one in five people in the UK (more than 11 million) have a disability and most disabilities, like visual impairments, are acquired as people get older. But many people including elderly and disabled people face digital exclusion due to communications barriers that prevent them from accessing digital content. The same applies for the near ten per cent of people don’t speak English as their main language, which rises to around one in five people in London.

Now is the time for agencies to make all digital content accessible and inclusive

If agencies want to ensure the digital content they make is accessible and inclusive they must make sure it meets the standards set it the World Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) as a minimum. For example, do images have alt text tags? Do videos have subtitles? Is text-based digital content in a font size of at least 12 and written in plain English? Is there a high contrast between the text and background colours?

The business case for creating more accessible and inclusive content is undeniable. The spending power of disabled people (and their families) in the UK is £249bn. However, disabled people and the purple pound, as their collective spending power is known, represent a huge market that is largely ignored. Making reasonable adjustments to ensure communications are accessible and inclusive is also a legal requirement for all organisations under The Equality Act (2010).

To reach the widest possible audience digital PR and communications need to be in a format that people can access and a language they can understand. This requires brands and agencies to embed inclusive design and user testing into the design and build of all digital content, combined with using assistive technology to overcome communication barriers. And if brands and agencies think strategically and make digital communications accessible from the start of every campaign it will be easier for them to manage. It will also save time and money compared to trying to make content accessible and inclusive after the production is finished.

To do this both in-house and agency professionals need buy in from the top of their agencies and the brands they represent. They also need training in accessible and inclusive digital communications to give them the skills and the confidence to act now.



Gavin B Harris MPRCA is a freelance PR Account Manager and copywriter. He works for agencies including Big Voice Communications and he specialises in writing highly-engaging content. If you need help with accessible and inclusive communications contact Gavin via Twitter now.