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Guest Column: Integrated solutions will boost growth in PR industry: Jaideep Shergill

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Guest Column: Integrated solutions will boost growth in PR industry: Jaideep Shergill

The pace at which the communication industry is changing is staggering, forcing public relations (PR) firms to morph into integrated communication consultancies. Today, PR firms are investing in tools and talent that they had not imagined they would need five years ago. It’s the only way it can become the lead on the overall brand function.

For PR, the new year will be better not just in terms of revenue, but also qualitatively for the services offered. Some of the trends that can become a reality in 2015:

The industry will have to win over marketing heads if it has to be recognised as a strategic player. For this, proof of strategic value delivered and the right investments will be the key.

Clients’ budgets will rise, but PR will remain way behind advertising on this front in 2015. PR budgets have risen robustly over the past few years. The industry is switching to the integrated mode rapidly and clients are recognising its contribution to their growth. The PR budget may see an increase of more than 20 per cent this year.

Integrated communication
Most of that growth will be driven by the industry offering integrated solutions. There are significant benefits. For instance, integrated communication provides higher engagement by giving audiences an opportunity to experience the brand through multiple media. While most people recognise the value of integrated communications, adoption will remain a challenge. It won’t be quick. It can be expensive and involve getting multiple stakeholders on board.

Advertising continues to be more trusted than PR even when it comes to integrated communication. Changing that perception will be difficult, but it remains do-or-die. Our ability to impart credibility to brands, deliver true engagement and build sustained relationships needs to be stressed. But we are failing on the measurement and insights fronts. These two aspects will get a lot of attention in 2015.

Research and insights
We need to get more data and insight-driven. That’s how we can deliver and demonstrate value to clients’ businesses. In 2015, research and insights will emerge as a must have. Data and insights will play a greater role in campaigns and overall communication strategies. Firms that don’t adapt will lose out or even fade away.

Planning will become part of our domain. Clients need ‘scientific’ approach to their mandates now. Advertising firms have institutionalised such processes for decades but PR hasn’t, relying instead on instinct and experience. From 2015, the ability to execute campaigns won’t be enough. We will need to articulate why we do what we do and also measure its impact. Insights, integration and impact will create a framework for strategic value.

The author is Co-Founder, Pitchfork Partners.

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