Quantify or die: PR must move into next decade with more accountability

25 July, 2011

And authenticity, says industry study

The practice of public relations is set for major change with Ogilvy PR Australia announcing
a number of initiatives aimed at taking the company - and the profession - into the next decade.

On the back of research jointly commissioned by the company and chapters of leading Australian industry body the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Ogilvy PR has pledged to:

  • Permanently stop measuring communications effectiveness by the much derided ‘Advertising Equivalent Value’ (AVE) in 2012 and evaluate the newly proposed ‘Value Metrics’ guidelines developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications;
  • Bolster its strategy, planning, creative and insights capabilities by a further 15% in the coming year by redefining and reinvesting in existing roles. As the only Australian PR agency with a Strategy and Planning Director and a dedicated strategic communications research and insights brand the company will also begin the search for a creative director this year;
  • Apply a unique 360 degrees communications filter to all briefs to further capitalise on a future where employee empowerment is paramount and digital engagement is an integral part of every consultant’s skill set; and
  • Embark on an ambitious in-house training program aimed at giving consultants a better hands-on understanding of the operational demands of business and clients.
Respondents overwhelmingly agreed (76%) that the term ‘PR’ will be dropped in the next decade as the role and nature of agencies and the discipline itself changes. Kieran Moore, Ogilvy PR Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, said the public relations industry needed to redefine rather than rename itself.

“We believe the age of spin, after being on life support for several years, is now dead. While we don’t agree with dropping ‘PR’ from our discipline, we think this shows that companies, organisations and individuals are demanding authentic communications advice that focuses on the reality of reputation - in the real world context of business and organisational needs,” Ms Moore said.

Ogilvy PR, Australia’s largest and most awarded agency, undertook the research with the Australian chapter of IABC to mark the company’s 10th anniversary in Australia. The research involved 300 online quantitative surveys among Australian PR and communications professionals, informed by 18 qualitative interviews conducted with leading industry figures.

The overall theme of the study was PR communications in 2021 and the responses showed that the biggest threat to the industry was the need to quantify and redefine the way PR outcomes are measured, while the “socialisation of brands” - the ability of companies to be seen as an integral and benign part of a target audience’s lives - was highlighted as the main role (67%) for PR in the future.

“This research further emphasises that communications is both an art and a science,” Ms Moore said. “More than ever before, brands must remain authentic as audiences are looking for engagement that interests, excites, amuses and provokes thought. PR practitioners need to become even better storytellers as they relate a brand’s messages in compelling ways, whether you’re client or agency-side.”

Translating an organisation’s stories was ranked as the most important quality for PR communication practitioners in the next decade (25%) by those on both sides of the agency and client fence.

With commentators predicting labour shortages once the huge baby boomer demographic moves into retirement, the research found a strong expectation that employee value will rise in the next decade. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents thought that by 2021 employees will be an organisation’s most critical brand ambassadors and 78% agreed that employees will expect to play a role in shaping company brands of the future.

‘’That finding aligns with all the research and experience we have gathered through our employee communication consultancy, and it’s why we are going to further stress to our clients the necessity for internal and external communications to create a united front.’’ Ms Moore said.

Key research findings and industry reaction can be found at:

For a full copy of the research results please contact:
Katherine Scott
Strategy and Planning Director
Ogilvy PR Australia
For more information contact:
Rebecca Tilly
STW Group
Ph: +61 410 501 043

About Ogilvy PR Australia
Ogilvy PR is the largest and most awarded public relations agency in Australia, scooping more than 50 Australian and global trophies in the last two years, including the top honour amongst all WPP owned PR agencies. Ogilvy PR is made up of specialist agencies including: Howorth (business and technology communications), Pulse (consumer communications), Impact Employee Communications, Parker & Partners (bi-partisan public affairs specialist), Ogilvy PR Health and Cannings (corporate communications). Ogilvy PR Australia is jointly owned by WPP and STW Group, Australia’s leading marketing, content and communications services group.
About the IABC
Founded in 1970, The International Association of Business Communicators provides a professional network of over 15,500 business communication professionals in over 80 countries. Australian members are drawn from a cross-spectrum of organisations, including the corporate, consulting, government and not-for-profit sectors. Our overriding commitment is to contribute to the success of our organisations through effective communication practice.

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