PR’s 4 Biggest Challenges

02/04/2013 09:38

It’s very rewarding to discover that the key challenges identified by a global study of 4500 PR leaders in 23 countries align with my 2013 strategies post.

The Cross Cultural Study of Leadership in Public Relations and Communication Management conducted by the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at The University of Alabama highlighted the four most important issues identified by nearly two-thirds of global respondents to the online survey.

  1. Managing the volume and velocity of information (23%)
  2. The role of Social Media (15.3%)
  3. Improving measurement (12.2%)
  4. Dealing with fast-moving crises (11.9%)

“We’re not surprised to find organizations racing to revise or create strategies to manage this revolution, but the mandate to develop meaningful measures of impact and value in a world that’s being transformed by data – that’s new,” said Dr. Bruce Berger, the study’s lead researcher, and the Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at The University of Alabama.

Full study findings at

Managing information

Technology has made our lives easier in many ways, but it also has us tethered to our devices and plugged us into a constant stream of information.  We have to find a way to prioritize, analyze and then absorb the data we need. It is easy to get overwhelmed.  It’s vital to find the right tools that can identify the right streams of data to tap into that can provide value and help you make better decisions.

Integrating Social Media

Is social media a separate discipline, does it belong in PR, marketing or customer service? How do you move a conversation from PR to another team if you need to? As the digital landscape matures brands are discovering that social media is not a silo-ed activity.  It needs to be integrated into the business at every level. The challenge for PR is to figure out what their role is in the conversations and how to move a conversation to another team, if necessary.

Improving Measurement

Traditionally, PR has not been at the forefront of measurement. That’s changing.  PR has to embrace the ability to track and measure every digital action. We have to move from counting outputs to measuring outcomes.  What happened?  What did they do?  What result did we get?  Start by learning how to use Google Analytics.  It’s not hard, and it’s free. Google now has social reporting too.  Simple tools like Crowdbooster can help you track your Twitter activity.

Once you get a handle on this measurement stuff, you might even find that it’s fun.  Get a few simple tools under your belt and then move on to the more sophisticated tools.

Crisis and Reputation Management

This definitely rates a place in the top challenges – according to the Burson-Marstellar Digital Crisis Preparedness Report just 20 percent of companies worldwide are prepared to deal with a fast-moving crisis. 35 percent are totally exposed and have no plan at all.

Altimeter Group’s analysis of the online crises in the last few years revealed that 76 percent need not have occurred or accelerated as they did.  The biggest factor in a fast-moving crisis developing and accelerating was the lack of skill and training in the PR team handling the crisis.

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