Poor writing spells disaster for PR agencies

The PR Skills Gap Survey published this week by PRmoment, (fast establishing itself as a fresh and interesting alternative to PR Week), made for a thought-provoking read.

Produced in conjunction with the PRCA, the survey compared the recruitment demands of public relations hirers with the skill sets of public relations candidates.

Two things surprised me. Firstly, the worrying revelation that writing ability currently accounts for one of the biggest skills gaps in our industry. Whilst 85% of PR agencies surveyed said that they rated writing as very important, a whopping 40% admitted that their businesses were lacking in this area.

Given that the creation of high quality content has never been more vital to the success of both B2B and consumer campaigns, and all aspects of multi-channel communications for that matter, this is extraordinary. Writing is at the heart of a PR professional’s skill set, so surely most agencies would consider this a core strength?

Whether communications professionals are tasked with writing copy for a blog, a company update for LinkedIn, a whitepaper or an opinion article, an e-shot, or site copy for a micro-site or an app, clients quite rightly expect that copy and all related marketing messaging to be on brand, incisive, intelligent, and engaging. That it must be ‘well-written’ is taken as read.

In-house teams loathe nothing more than having to spend hours rewriting material produced by their PR agency. A bit of ‘red pen’ action is to be expected – it’s part of the editing and approvals process – but why hire an agency if you have to re-write their content from scratch?  We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve heard this complaint from clients who approach us with new business briefs.

At onechocolate, writing tests are a key part of our recruitment process. Candidates who fail to meet our required standards of ability don’t get through the door. In order to ensure a high level of professional and personal development, we also offer on-going training through our oneAcademy programme to take our new recruits to the next level.

Our writing is so strong, that a client recently said:

 

“Bloody hell, that reads really well. You are geniuses – I love it. No edits…why ‘gild the lily?’ Thanks so much.”

 

The other thing that struck me about the PR Skills Gap Survey was the inadequate reference to comment about writing ability in relation to digital marketing and the writing skills required for services such as social media community management.

Given that the future of our industry is unquestionably digital, it is alarming that social and digital PR was hardly touched upon in the report.

The majority of the questions were focused around writing skills for ‘traditional’ PR: communications, planning, project management and thought leadership. There were only four questions relating to digital PR out of a total of 13 survey questions.

However, I do agree with Founder of PRmoment, Ben Smith’s review of the findings. He concludes: “Public relations is a market in disruption, it is undergoing huge change. The skills sets required in PR now are radically different to 2 or 3 years ago. On the buy side of PR recruitment it seems many PR teams have an uneven balance of skills required for today’s public relations market. On the sell side, candidates need to look at the skills required and embrace these new areas so that they don’t become PR dinosaurs.”

Power of Words

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What does the Oculus VR Purchase mean for Digital PR?

Another week, another purchase for Facebook. The one that sent the Internet into a frenzy last week was the purchase of Oculus VR for $2bn.

While this move caused concern amongst the gaming community and some of Europe’s leading developers (namely, that Facebook’s involvement could be detrimental to the core gaming experience), many are already beginning to ponder the positive developments in social media this may bring about.

Combining the worlds of social media and virtual reality offers a brand new set of challenges and creative outlets for digital PR.  But it doesn’t start and end with gaming alone. The key message for digital marketers is that this new relationship could soon present a wealth of opportunities for brands  both in and out of the gaming sphere. Mark Zuckerberg himself is quoted as saying:

“Imagine enjoying a court-side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world, consulting with a doctor face-to-face, or going shopping in a virtual store where you can touch and explore the products you’re interested in just by putting on goggles in your own home.”

Being able to offer consumers experiential activity in the digital space of virtual reality is now something marketers, digital PR agencies and brands can actually consider planning for, which is a truly exciting prospect.

This development is the latest milestone in the stratospheric rise of the wearable tech trend. With tech giants such as Microsoft investing $150m in VR headsets, and Sony showing off its latest VR offering at GDC, all signs are pointing to virtual reality becoming a key component in any current or next-gen tech venture.

 

Oculus

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Newspapers aren’t dying off just yet in 2014 EMEA PR Planning

There’s a consensus that European newspapers and traditional media are dying.

Circulations are falling. Young people aren’t reading newspapers. Venerable newspapers are being closed down.

The facts can’t lie can they?

But it is worth asking if the European newspaper Armageddon is really taking place. While acknowledging 2013 was no bed of roses for the industry, Peter Preston’s column provides a cold splash of reality when he recalled how he attended a conference four years ago that predicted the demise of all printed newspapers by 2014. He adds ruefully that means “an awful lot of perishing left to cram into the next 12 months, and it shows no sign of happening any time soon. Indeed, rather the reverse.”

Yes, his point is that two big UK newspapers – The Guardian and Daily Telegraph – have held their own in newspaper circulation figures with minor declines and strong digital revenues too.  The analysis could be that print and digital readerships don’t cannibalise each other.

Other trends that were expected to radically shake up the European newspaper industry also haven’t been as transformative as predicted.  Check out this Danish study into the rise and decline of free newspapers, for example.

Nonetheless we look at what’s happened in North America and expect their trend of newspaper readership decline and closure to be extended across the Atlantic to Europe. Yet another new study by NiemanLab suggests that US trends cannot be applied to the European media scene because the composition of the media industry in Europe is wholly different to the USA. European newspapers are being affected by the same fundamental changes in readership and digital, but the responses of their owners and managements will not be the same as the press barons of US newspapers.

As an EMEA PR professional, changes in premium media like newspapers are a trend that’s obviously of great interest. And it’s worth not taking the accepted wisdom on what’s happening, and recognising yet again that the media industry is complex and multi-faceted, especially across such a diverse continent and regional concept as EMEA.

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