Jenny Mowat

A year in the life of PR: Transformation, digital, purpose and press

As 2019 draws to a close and the Babel team wrap up their to-do lists in anticipation of a well-earned break, Babel MD Jenny Mowat makes some observations about the PR industry as a whole, and discusses how these have been reflected in Babel’s own experience.

Transformation all round

Despite the doom and gloom in the wider political and business environment, PR as an industry is thriving. Clients and agencies are living and breathing a period of transformation characterised by evolving stakeholder expectations, and a daily digest of digital trends, ambition and purpose.

It’s never been more important for CEOs to focus on corporate reputation. Investors are looking at strategic promises and KPIs in a quest to sniff out the non-financial and sustainability imperatives that differentiate prospects. Increasingly, it’s experienced PR agencies that are able to advise clients on how to do this.

The year of the influencer

Informed and meaningful discussions, as well as a renewed focus on reputation and corporate purpose, has led to a shift away from some traditional PR tactics. At the same time, we’ve seen the emergence of collaborative pitching. The collective industry voice is now perceived as stronger than any individual one could ever be, and adds weight to the pitching process when mega trends are at play.

2019 has seen us successfully drive this approach forward. We’ve offered a number of roundtable-style ‘events’ during which influencers discuss trends and tactics with clients as a collective.  This approach has reaped significant rewards in terms of the value added to long-term relationships, leading to client coverage in The Daily Mail, TV opportunities with TelecomTV and opportunities with Bloomberg and The Economist.

PR is changing rapidly, with deeper skillsets required

We are seeing growing demand for capabilities that stretch beyond the realms of traditional PR, including greater focus on integrated campaigns that support the wider marketing mix. A PR agency’s expertise will now often span the realms of data and research, website development, and product and marketing copy. And this is in addition to the curation of engaging and informative social media and influencer content. If done well, these will all have a red thread brand narrative running through them.

Gone are the days when PR was just about pitching stories.  Once a mere buzzword, ‘integration’ has reached new levels. Agencies now require specialist teams and advisers that can dissect and disseminate a huge range of requirements. These span traditional communications and marketing, to the geekier side of data and content tools that segment, measure and analyse campaign content, stakeholder responses and ROI.

Babel is constantly pushing standards on each and every campaign, and always thinking beyond the campaign itself in terms of measuring value.  We’ve used tools like BuzzSumo, Signal and SEMrush (to name just a few) and work collaboratively with clients to add value to campaign analytics and reporting.

Demand for international networks that work

Companies operating in the digital economy are no longer restricted by physical borders. They operate on a global scale and require multi-market support to drive brand awareness and raise their international profile.  Having seen an increase in demand for global communications and content marketing programmes, Babel has refined its approach. We’re able to offer granular insight into local markets and media, drawing on our international network of likeminded agencies.

For some clients, and for some markets, we implement activity in other geographies directly from our UK offices. Other clients have more complex or extensive requirements that need ‘on-the-ground support’. The Babel International Network is a grouping of trusted agencies based in a number of countries around the world, which share a similar philosophy, approach and breadth of experience with digital economy companies. Teams are all hand-picked and represent the ‘best of breed’ in their respective geographies.

Babel is proud to located in London, a global tech hub with flourishing credentials. We look forward to 2020 and the opportunities and innovations it will bring, in the meantime however, we wish all of our clients, stakeholders and business partners and peaceful Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.

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