Over the past two decades, the world has become a lot flatter. Ongoing globalization trends are breaking down international barriers and have made it much easier for industries to see what their peers are doing on the other side of the world.
PR agencies in particular are starting to look at their international counterparts to see what can be learned and implemented on their home turf. Today, firms have been innovating and diversifying services to keep up with the constant change brought on by the latest technology. In a global economy, that means staying aware of what’s happening in each market.
As more and more businesses go global, PR companies need to do the same. With international communications networks, like ION, it’s possible for firms to work together to cross international divides and ensure that clients can be supported, wherever an office or team is located. When agencies collaborate, they start to innovate, too, creating new services and new opportunities. And, with a reliable international network, PR pros can ensure that they always stay up-to-date with global trends.
So, what are the next big things for PR across international markets? The clearest changes are happening when it comes to content, analytics and industry growth.
- NORAM: Content, Analytics, Research
In North America, PR agencies are primarily focusing on three things: content marketing, analytics and research capabilities. With more content and more marketing strategies attached to that content, PR agencies are becoming increasingly integral to lead generation. Technology has also made analytics an easier part of the PR pro’s job – new platforms have allowed firms to really show clients the measurable results from different PR campaigns.
When it comes to research, PR agencies are often leading efforts to manage, interpret and deploy the findings to influential, third-party outlets. By hiring in-house agencies, some firms are also helping clients with sentiment and competitive research, so that businesses can better understand what works and what doesn’t.
Tech PR especially has started to think hard about what kinds of content and research work for clients. For instance, a recent study conducted by ION has found that 80 percent of international CIOs prefer news stories that are 150 words or fewer and 62 percent want content that’s more relevant to their needs.
- APAC: Black PR & Expansion
One notorious trend in the field of PR is raising flags in the APAC region – the so-called practice of “black PR.” According to Caixin, some firms in China have been working with clients to virtually erase scandals from the Internet: “For a price, [agencies] deleted Internet postings of all kinds according to client specifications before a police crackdown on Internet scrubbing last year.”
The police crackdown on this practice resulted in more than 100 arrests, but there are some doubts as to whether “black PR” has been stopped in its tracks or if similar companies will pursue the same path.
Another event that’s causing a stir in the APAC region is the recent expansion of international PR agency Cohn & Wolfe to the Philippines. That’s prompted some speculation from The Holmes Report as to whether or not the country may be an up-and-coming spot for PR firms.
Economic growth in the Philippines is booming and is expected to surpass that of China’s by next year.
Cohn & Wolfe is the fourth international agency to build a presence in the country and, given the island nation’s staggering economic growth, it’s a good bet that there are more PR opportunities to come in the next few years.
- EMEA: Quantifying Results through Qualitative Standards
Like PR agencies in North America, those in EMEA are focusing more on content and analytics. Much of this is because of client demand. Having measurable results from PR campaigns is a great way to prove value to clients and improve upon the work that’s already being done.
According to a study from Worldcom Public Relations Group, which interviewed more than 500 PR clients from a diverse array of industries, businesses focus more on qualitative results (95 percent) over quantitative results (73 percent). That means that clients in the EMEA region pay more attention to the tone of coverage and quality of content (95 percent) than they do the connection between PR outputs and business goals (68 percent).
However, the number of clients that are measuring PR against bottom line business objectives seems to be on the rise.
“We are delighted that PR measurement is moving beyond just counting clippings and brand or product mentions to focus more on business impact,” said Patrik Schober, chairman elect of Worldcom EMEA, in a statement. “In today’s always-on online and social world, it’s vital that content and conversations are assessed qualitatively to ensure that PR campaigns are helping to achieve desired client outcomes."
International PR: Growing, But Wary
The outlook for international PR looks bright. There has been steady growth across each region, according to The World PR Report. By the end of 2012, APAC was leading the way in PR firm growth at a rate of 13.6 percent. Firms in the U.S. grew at an equally impressive clip of 11.6 percent. Latin American, Middle Eastern and African firms came in at 10.4 percent. UK firms grew by 9.8 percent and in Western Europe, the rate was 8.2 percent.
But, that doesn’t mean PR firms are entirely optimistic. Last year, there was a slight dip in optimism rankings among international agencies. The 2013 World PR Report found that there was a significant challenge for firms when it came to finding “intelligent, well-educated talent.”
Additionally, for firms in Western Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, it has been an uphill climb to get clients interested in “non-traditional services.” As the PR market trends toward digitization, this could be a serious problem in the near future.
There’s no doubt that a strong, international network is necessary to overcome these problems. As groups like ION have seen, having overseas support immediately available for clients can create unprecedented opportunities. Firms can collaborate to deliver the best possible PR campaigns and strategically plan services together. Overall, there are exciting things happening all over the world when it comes to public relations. The real takeaway is that firms have to continue to innovate and strive to do their best for every client – and it’s much better to do that in a team that it is to go it alone.