Earlier this year, the folks at Muck Rack surveyed 1,800+ PR pros from top PR agencies and internal communications teams from brands to understand the state of PR today. While Muck Rack publishes this report annually, our team at BMV believes this year’s edition is particularly insightful as public relations professionals and their clients have distanced themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we all know, COVID-19 severely impacted all industries, but its impact on the public relations industry was incredibly unique. Seemingly overnight, virtual interviews became the norm, almost all events went digital, and communication platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams became paramount to success.
However, in 2022, PR pros and their clients are finally returning to some semblance of normalcy. But what does every day look like these days for PR Pros? Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the report and gauge what it means as we move through the end of the year.
The Challenges & Priorities Ahead: Insights from Top PR Agencies
As many PR pros know, media relations have always been essential to the job. And while the PR playbook is rapidly expanding today with more owned and even paid media, PR pros say their top challenge is still getting responses from journalists (52%), followed by budget limitations at 45%. However, while both of these are a hurdle for PR practitioners, the numbers have trended down since 2021, when the figures were 59% and 49%, respectively.
The problem with measuring business impact has also decreased significantly from 46% in 2021 to 38% in 2022. The decrease may illustrate that internal and agency PR pros are beginning to take on tactics such as social media, content marketing, and even more traditional advertising to more effectively measure the business impact of their campaigns.
Unfortunately, while the biggest problems facing PR pros have decreased in the last year, some of the more minor, more overlooked issues facing the PR industry have gone up.
For example, here are some of the challenges that have increased or doubled in the last year:
- Finding a corporate sponsor (4% in 2021; 12% in 2022)
- Collaborating w/ my team (6% in 2021; 20% in 2022)
- Recruiting/retaining talent (17% in 2021; 22% in 2022)
- Collaborating with other departments (18% in 2021; 34% in 2022)
Indeed, the sharp increase in having issues collaborating with their team and other departments highlights how difficult PR pros find long-term remote work. And while recession fears and costs/rates rising have led to some layoffs in the PR/marketing departments in recent months, recruiting talent in 2022 remains a difficult task.
Tools of the Trade: Trends Among Top PR Agencies
While email, documents, and spreadsheets continue to reign supreme in the productivity tools department, they’re not as frequently used in 2022 as last year. For example, while 100% of PR pros used email daily in 2021, that number has gone down to 83% in 2022. The same can be said about documents and spreadsheets, which went from 96% to 78% and 78% to 61%, respectively.
It’s also worth noting that although the figures have changed slightly regarding how many PR pros use a database and news monitoring platforms, they are still being used relatively at the same rate. However, the same cannot be said about marketing software, which will be utilized more widely in 2022.
For example, here are some of the marketing tools that have increased or doubled in usage within the last year:
- Email Automation Tools (10% daily in 2021; 19% daily in 2022)
- Marketing Automation Tools (7% daily in 2021; 14% daily in 2022)
- Marketing Cloud Tools (7% daily in 2021; 14% daily in 2022)
These tools again show a push from PR pros to more robust PR playbooks outside of only concentrating on earned media. Instead, these tools above are utilized to power content marketing engines at most companies. What’s most interesting in these above figures is that they doubled when companies seriously reconsidered their PR and marketing budgets. So for these applications to increase by so much in only one year, it’s clear that these tools hold significant value to PR pros and digital marketers.
Relationships With Media: Adapting Strategies for Success
Although both the 2021 and 2022 reports show that PR pros believe relevance is the most critical factor when pitching media, journalists disagree. In fact, according to Muck Rack’s 2022 State of Journalism report, 24% of journalists say they will reject a pitch based on timeliness. Similarly, according to the 2021 State of Journalism report, lousy timing was why journalists refused otherwise relevant pitches.
Despite many changes in how PR pros operate last year, their relationships with journalists and other media have remained the same. This would make sense as although the way we work has changed substantially, the actual work itself—in this case, media relations—has remained relatively ‘business as usual.’ For example, email continues to be the preferred delivery mechanism for pitches among PR pros in both agencies and in-house.
However, PR pros have significantly reduced the rate at which they use email in the last year, signaling a change in how they conduct media relations. For example, while 96% of respondents cited individual emails as most effective for pitching in 2021, that number dropped to 76% in 2022.
On the other hand, Twitter more than doubled in popularity among PR pros as 28% of respondents said they used the social media platform for pitching vs. 19% who said they used Twitter last year. Social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn have become more viable pitching outlets. But while DMs may be open for some journalists, you should understand who those journalists are, or you may become the latest bad pitch meme.