The results of this year’s PRCA Digital Report make for confusing reading. There are several contradictions within it that perhaps highlight a lack of direction among public relations professionals when it comes to digital and social media.
And after analysing the report, it would seem to me that much of that confusion is the result of a lack of investment in digital media training.
In-House Digital Budgets Increasing Rapidly
The encouraging message that comes across very clearly is that spend on digital PR continues to increase. The percentage of in-house marketing budgets spent on digital activity has risen by 56% in the last year, up from 16% to 25%. Furthermore, 62% of in-house practitioners expect that to grow further in the next 12 months.
Of that spend, video (62%) and paid social media (55%) are now the areas that see the most investment. Spending on web development, on the other hand, has plummeted over the last three years from 79% to 55%, perhaps reflecting online behaviour and the increasing focus on social media channels over owned media properties. For example, 65% of Fortune 500 companies have seen decreases in website visitors since 2010 as as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have started to dominate our time online.
The Digital Media Training Paradox
When it comes to social and digital media training, however, there are things that simply don’t add up. Or perhaps, they do. See what you think.
Compare and contrast these two statistics:
- 27% of in-house communications professionals would like more training in social network strategy
- There has been a reduction of 22% in spend on social network strategy in the last three years
Without more information it’s difficult to understand the relationship between these two. Is the lack of strategic investment a result of a lack of social media training and knowledge? Or is a lack of strategic thinking leading to under-investment in digital media training? Or is there no causal relationship at all?
Either way, this lack of social media strategy rings major alarm bells for me.
Here’s another example from the agency side of the fence.
- 38% of agency professionals would like more training in SEO
- There’s been a 20% drop in agencies offering SEO over the last four years
Again, is it the reduction in offering SEO as a service that’s led to under-investment in training in this area, or is it the lack of digital media training that’s led to agencies being uncomfortable in offering SEO as a service?
Training and development in both the strategic and practical use of digital technology is vital if the PR industry is to continue its trajectory.
There’s no doubt that it’s made strides in the last few years, but there’s a still a long, long way to go. On this very blog a couple of weeks back, newly-announced President-Elect of the CIPR Sarah Hall told me that although “the rate of introduction of new technologies has slowed a little, we are continually having to learn and upskill and that’s not going to change. My view is that we are adapting well but to increase our worth as practitioners we need to concentrate on strategic application.”
It’s pretty simple: investment in digital and social media training is vital for the future of the communications industry.
Changes in Service Offerings
A few other things stood out from the report for me.
First, 32% of in-house practitioners don’t use social media now due to a lack of staff, and this I find a little surprising. If budget is not necessarily the issue (46% cite lack of budget as the reason for not using social media), there are plenty of good independent social media consultants out there who can provide the specialist support that they need.
Second, there’s been a 21% decrease in agencies offering customer monitoring and listening services in the last four years. This one astounds me, as listening really should be the start and end (and middle, in fact) of all social media strategies. If you’re not listening to what people are saying, what are you doing? Broadcasting at them? It sends a shiver down my spine!
And third, nearly one in five in-house personnel say that their PR agency partners do not help with any area of social or digital. Really?! They do nothing in this area? My advice: look for another agency…!
As I said in my introduction, quite a confusing read this year. You can interpret it as positive or negative or somewhere in-between depending on your viewpoint. What’s yours?
If you would like advice on best practice digital and social media training please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07533 026066. I offer bespoke, modular training courses on all aspects of social and digital media that are constructed around your own specific requirements.