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Increasing budgets and leveraging technology to help communicators tell their stories more efficiently and effectively were two of the overarching themes of USC-Annenberg’s 2019 Global Communications Report.

The report, which asked PR professionals (both in-house and agency), CEOs and students about changes relevant to the PR industry and the use of technology.

Growth & Mix Between Paid, Earned Owned & Shared

Many of the PR professionals surveyed believe their revenue and their budgets will grow over the next 12 months. In fact, 85% of in-house respondents said they expected budgets to either stay the same or increase in 2019 compared to the prior year, when only 74% suggested budgets would either stay the same or increase.

According to CEOs, shared and owned media will be the most valuable to their company in the future, at 38 and 36 percent respectively, followed by earned media (14%) and paid media (12%).

According to the report, In-house marketers said their marketing mix looked (and expects to look) something like this:

Source: USC Annenberg

51% indicate that PR will become “a lot more integrated with marketing” over the next five years.

“As we have seen in the past two years,” said the report, “The integration between PR and marketing is another important trend, according to almost 90% of survey respondents. That integration is pushing PR to adopt new technology already being used in the advertising world. Competition always spurs innovation, and right now PR is playing a little catch-up. The merger of marketing and PR is also causing structural changes inside organizations, agencies and holding companies, some of whom believe integration is more important than independence. Another result of this integration: PR agencies are hiring more creatives and planners from advertising agencies.”

Technology Adoption

USC Annenberg spent a significant portion of this year’s study on technology.

83% of global communicators believe technological innovations will be a significant driver of change in the industry, which is the reason we conducted this study.PR professionals said they would that pressure to deliverable measurable ROI, integration between communications and marketing and expanding the number of media channels would be among the primary drivers for technology adoption in their companies.

Interestingly, 58% of in-house communicators rated their company’s current ability to use the latest technology to increase their communications effectiveness as “average” or “below average.”

“Digital experts and junior staff are the ones who really know what’s hot and what’s not,” said the report.

This is where an agency partner can come in. Tech Image, for example, has the benefit of applying industry leading technology across more than a dozen clients, so we’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work and how to apply Digital PR Best Practices across a variety of industries.

The Future

Social Listening and analytics, website analytics, social media management, media monitoring, content creation, SEO, CRM & Marketing automation and influencer identification and management all are expected

According to the report, measurement, audience targeting, content creation and customer experience optimization would see the biggest advancements through the use of technology in the coming year.

“Interestingly and perhaps alarmingly,” said the report. “Only 18% of all PR executives believe artificial intelligence, which is being heralded as the next big thing, will be a very important technology for them in the future,” despite the existence of systems like Bloomberg’s Cyborg, which reportedly can assist reporters in writing basic articles from public companies’ quarterly earnings releases. The USC Annenberg report says that financial reporting, sports coverage, business coverage, political coverage and general interest would be among the highest percentage of content written by artificial intelligence.

An interesting epilogue of the report is not “what” technologies will impact the practice of professional communications but “how,” specifically, it said that technology changes in media would at the same time create more engaged, but more polarized and misinformed audiences.

It’s our responsibility as PR professionals to leverage the technology we have today and that which will come tomorrow in a responsible manner, leveraging Digital PR Best Practices along the way to help our clients tell their stories more effectively and efficiently.

Michael Monahan

Author Michael Monahan

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