Is PR an art or a science? In the fight between creativity and strategy, who wins? And what about data? When it comes to measuring the results of a PR campaign, it’s these sorts of questions that crop up time and time again.
In light of Measurement Month 2021 in November, spottydog founder and CEO Rachel Roberts explores the topic and the varying industry perspectives on measuring ROI in PR.
Data driven vs creative PR
Judging the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) Awards last month, together with chairing a brilliant event organised by CIPR Cymru which asked ‘What do we mean by ‘strategic communications?’ and ‘What’s wrong with being tactical?’, I’ve been fortunate to gain fresh perspective around this question.
Stephen Waddington was a panellist at the CIPR Cymru event. He said “…being rooted in practice keeps my feet on the ground to be good at strategy” and this was a sentiment shared by panellist Emma Leech who believes “the best practitioners excel at strategy and tactics”.
I share this view, but there was broad agreement with the perspective from panellist Polly Cziok who argued that PR consultants can often be typecast as having a ‘tactics first’ mindset due to being the people that organisations turn to for practical help in a crisis. Stephen Waddington also believes that the profession isn’t configured to have a strategic management role, so it’s not easy for PR professionals to naturally be brought in at a strategic level.
Our traditional on-the-job skills learning model plays to the bias to think tactics first, as that’s where professionals at the early stage cut their teeth. Whilst PR graduates join our profession with PR degrees that will have covered PR strategy, it’s being taught in a theoretical vacuum. In reality, the ability to deliver on a strategy gets impacted by real-life limitations, or as CIPR Fellow John Wilkinson commented at the CIPR Cymru event ‘no plan survives first contact’. It’s here that those PR professionals with a broad range of tactical experience can ensure the strategy can be quickly refined to ensure the original intended outcomes have best chance of being achieved.
So, the CIPR Cymru event concluded with the broad agreement that PR professionals need to be both creative artists and strategic scientists in order to ensure the effectiveness of communications is fully realised.
How to measure PR effectiveness
However, also reflecting on some of the amazing campaigns I’ve judged for the AMEC Awards, it’s clear that as well as being artists and scientists, PRs also need to be fluent in data. Many of the campaigns featuring within the AMEC Awards include significant amount of planning work, extracting data using both human analysis and AI to inform both planning and performance. For several case studies judged, cutting edge computer science is being used by communications professionals to write brand-new algorithms to analyse big data, which then informed the PR strategy.
My reflection is that that data, strategy and creative all play a part in the creation of great PR campaigns, and it’s unlikely that any one person can excel across these three very different dynamics. This plays to the advantage for PR consultancies like spottydog, in which our team features a broad range of skill sets that are needed to develop campaigns which deliver real results.
It’s also exciting to consider the range of talent which may be part of our industry and the career opportunities as the diversity of skills required continues to grow. With many skillsets working together, the only fight left to have might be on awards night and who’s going to get their hands on the trophy first! May I suggest a brainstorm to come up with a creative solution to that problem….?
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