Thursday, 25 October 2012

PR wedded to tactics

Every year when Bournemouth University PR undergraduate students come back from their year-long industry placements, they submit a report for assessment. And every year, it's the same old picture of a PR industry wedded to tactics, media relations, occasional stunts and no attempt at measurement and evaluation.

Sure there are some students who go to exceptional placements which believe in research, planning, strategy and measurement but they are few. So after analysing several placement reports and discussing the rest of the 65 reports with colleagues, what "state of play" emerges about PR in the UK?

The good news first:
  • Students enjoy the placements and are usually very well supported by industry employers.
  • They get responsibility quite early in the placement for delivery of media relations and events.
  • There are many standing offers to come back to their jobs after graduation.
  • Social media is increasingly used, although with doubts over its effectiveness.
The less good news:
  • Students are still teaching some employers about social media. The CEO of one major services company asked the PR intern for advice on how the quoted company could "stop online criticism."
  • There is little evidence of strategic thinking at account manager level. It's all busy, busy, busy.
  • Far too many PR "campaigns" are essentially tactical and based on guesswork. Objectives are fluffy and unmeasurable. Outcomes are couched in terms of media coverage, not impact or creation of value.
  • Even major international PR firms with trumpeted commitments to measurement and evaluation regularly sidestep them for volume coverage.
But the one common factor from the placements was that all but the smallest operations use Gorkana. That company must be making a bomb.