If you’ve worked in PR 10 weeks or 10 years, you’ll be aware there is a growing emphasis on technology and digital. Technology affects every part of our jobs. It comes in the shape of new tools and data analytics that will create more effective campaigns and finally put AVE out of its misery.
However, beyond traditional earned media campaigns, the rapidly changing digital world is creating new social channels, customer journeys and audiences. Marketing and PR is becoming increasingly integrated as we learn how to position and communicate across these channels. As these grow and diversify so too do the budgets demands for hybrid-PRs to cater to its associated requirements; content for, and management of, websites, apps, mobile and cloud projects.
The industry has talked about creating hybrid PRs for some time now. For agencies, the integrated offer seems to be the PR panacea to shrinking earned media budgets and a shift from retainer to project based work. Yet, many agencies are still working in dedicated traditional and digital silos or using third party talent to complete integrated briefs. This means that those on the account teams planning and mapping campaigns don’t know enough to truly integrate all components for the benefit of the businesses they work for or give the transparency needed into technical and digital project detail. For in-house PRs and communications professionals that manage these account teams, this is frustrating: many struggle to ask the right strategic questions when it comes to signing off these budgets without concern and their agency are not helping educate them along the process.
So how do we create these hybrid PRs, how do we upskill our workforce to enable them to speak the language of digital? And most importantly for agency practitioners, how do we ensure we consult knowledgably on not only the strategic and tactical aspects of any marketing or PR project but the technical also?
L&D plans and hands on, practical training sessions are crucial to up-skill internal staff but they need to be spearheaded by someone in the business that has the passion to corral teams, get buy-in from senior staff and think beyond the typical social media and digital courses that are already on offer. Most often this starts with understanding the backbone to any digital project – the Web. Some grasp of software development, coding and digital tools will set tomorrow’s marketer apart from their peers. In 2014 the Racepoint Global team started to learn how to code. At first it was frustrating, then it was enlightening. Learning the depth and breath, the insight into the fundamental building blocks of the Web helped us to understand website structure, SEO, WordPress and more to a greater degree. While we are not expert software developers, the team started to create a technical mind-set, and understanding of a process. And so, Code/Talk – a create an app in a day - training programme was born. It was a jointly creative process, during which we had fun – and it’s really resonated with clients and prospects too.
Do we all need to be expert coders? Not really. But a dedication to learning, to understanding the fundamentals of managing digital projects, graphics design, filming, web design, SEO, SEM are past being nice to haves and are necessary skills in the agency of today. Not only will campaigns become more effective but this is an opportunity to affect change and add value to client or business like never before. These disciplines give a deep understanding of technology the latest trends, how different tools and platforms integrate, the user experience and what data is important for making smart decisions. That’s why PRs and marketers need to understand the language of digital.