Jamie Kightley
Jamie Kightley

It’s been a ground-changing couple of years for the C-suite. According to Cision’s fourth annual Comms Report, 85 percent of PR pros said the C-suite is now relying on them for strategic counsel. It appears that PR’s value has extended beyond simple informing the sales pipeline, that business executives are more dependent on strategic guidance from PR and marketing professionals than ever before.

Good COVID communications was essential during the pandemic and fell into the lap of marketing and PR professionals alike. The manner in which businesses responded will have a lasting legacy on how those organizations are perceived. Research from IAB UK and YouGov shows that 80 percent of UK respondents are less likely to purchase from a company that had been insensitive during the crisis, with another 35 percent stating they now pay more attention to how companies behave. And it’s been the job of communications teams to keep organizations’ reputations intact throughout this crisis.

Customer experience needs a COVID makeover

It’s not just PR and communications pros that are experiencing the surge in demand. CIOs also have a newfound weight on their shoulders through an overnight growth in responsibilities and required agility—in the U.S. well over 90 percent of CIOs are now working closely with their CMO to improve the customer experience and promote innovation.

PR and marcom prove their flexibility

PR stands for public relations, which means many different publics, from employees, to investors, to customers, to prospects, to the media, to analysts. PR showed itself to be among the most agile of sectors when initially adapting to new ways of working. Marketing communications were used to help and inform internal staff, keep morale high and ensure everyone knew the company was coping with the challenges, whether through furloughs or shorter weeks.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's July '21 Travel & Tourism PR Magazine
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But PR and marketing also stepped up to the customer plate to create digital events such as product launches, thought leadership summits or topical webinar series. The digital trend has proved particularly popular, and 71 percent of marketers believe virtual events are here to stay throughout 2021 and beyond. And let’s not forget the media’s role in all this: All essential audiences to communicate “business as usual” during difficult times, bring together customers, prospects and new solutions and achieve essential third-party endorsement in target media.

More than three quarters of B2B buyers and their sales counterparts say they prefer the new COVID-induced digital reality, not only for safety reasons but for ease, speed and convenience. Organizations have had to juggle service disruptions and brand reputations and relevancy, alongside workforce welfare, so finding effective digital communication methods and newfound ways of networking have become essential when choosing to engage with people—whether that be customers, clients, staff or journalists.

Taking advantage of available communication tools

With a widespread number of digital services fast-forwarded by the pandemic, digital events have brought a windfall of new solutions to the market while communicating to the eager ears of potential audiences.

Newfound methods have included the use of social media as a means of interaction between PR pros and journalists. The organic and natural nature of the interaction can help solidify the PR-journalist relationship.

Remote working has forced countless Zoom calls, internal and external online meetings, and events—the demand for digital communication and collaboration escalates. But other technology investments, particularly in data analytics, will be key.

Advanced data analytics for media watching

Data analytics is well-proven to provide insights into customer behaviors and allow insightful and data-driven business decisions, so it’s no shock that analytics tools have become precious and integral assets to PR and communications professionals. In this digital age, just posting articles and hoping for the best isn’t enough. Advancements in digital technology have made insights much more easily accessible, transforming the way businesses operate and as such, have become a crucial tool that PR and communications experts must incorporate into their strategies.

There are now analytics tools that offer the ability to observe who’s been reading your stories and from where, and pinpoint which messages are driving sales most successfully and why. When extended in PR, analytics results can allow for a much more targeted approach, providing relevant media and journalist suggestions that can boost media placement opportunities.

Measurement and analytics tools such as Power BI, Hubspot and Marketo can help show a real focus on long-term campaign results, indicating to company managers that PR pros are achieving ROI through these efforts.

Staying ‘deep-seated’ at the C-suite table

The pandemic hasn’t changed PR, marketing and CIOs’ roles but it has undoubtedly accelerated their responsibilities far more quickly than anticipated—and they’ve certainly proved their worth during the last 12 months. While businesses continue to adapt to our new normal, PR and communications professionals are top of the speed dial list. Company leaders are still reliant on this strategic counsel, but will they maintain that seat?

Yes. New developments in data-driven analytics will help marketing pros align their proposed PR strategy with company and C-suite goals to ensure common ground. Yes, by adapting to emerging communications platforms, marketing teams kept communication flowing and adjusted to the new ways of working. And yes, business leaders believe the industry has done a stellar job!


Jamie Kightley is head of client services at IBA International.