The Future Of PR: Will Science Inevitably Defeat Art?

The Future Of PR: Will Science Inevitably Defeat Art?

The marketing world’s been struggling with it for a while now – a transition to data and analytically-led results – so will it soon be the turn of the PR industry?

John Bastick
Posted by John Bastick

Stunts, releases, media days and conferences are all well and good (and expensive to boot) but will clients soon demand to be shown the actual numbers, the eyeballs, the bums on seats; the customers through the door that has become expected of marketers? In short, will science soon defeat art in the world of PR?

Well, according to group managing director of Ogilvy Public Relations, Susan Redden Makatoa (pictured below), if we’re not already at a data-driven PR world we’re definitely not far away.


“The day of the straightforward clip count is long gone,” Redden Makatoa told B&T. “In PR, we know that clients need to see a clear business case at the outset and a solid ROI at the end.”

But, she adds, one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other. “I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. If you have great analysis up front you’ll have great insights, which can then lead to something really exciting in the creative space,” she said

One winner in a move to data-led results will be research companies, Redden Makatoa argued, and that has the possibility of adding significant dollars to the cost of campaigns.

Carol Moore (pictured below), the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA) measurement and evaluation committee, agrees that science will continue to be a valuable tool for PRs.

Carol Moore photo B n W

“Management and clients are increasingly looking for more tangible evidence of results from public relations, including how PR contributes to organisational goals. It has therefore become more important than ever for public relations practitioners to provide evidence-based, credible results and demonstrate ROI,” Moore said.

PRIA recently released a set of guidelines called Principles On Best Practice In Research, Measurement and Evaluation Of Public Relations. Its aim, Moore said, was to “enable better management and evaluation of public relations programs and strategies, and to foster an increased understanding of the value public relations brings to organisations at a variety of levels”.

Redden Makatoa adds that clients are increasingly expecting a more analytical approach to campaigns. “If your campaign isn’t directly linked to business objectives, it’s going to come into question pretty quickly,” she said.

Which begs the question: are new PR recruits coming out of colleges and universities equipped with the skills required in this brave new world?

Redden Makatoa says ‘convergence’ has become an industry buzzword where exponents are becoming increasingly skilled in disciplines outside of traditional PR.

“The need for great ideas won’t wane but the way they are executed will just keep evolving and technology will be at the heart of that,” she said.

“I’m always hopeful with new staff members, and especially young ones, that they’ll bring knowledge of a new technology or creative approach. It’s so exciting when they do.

“I’d expect that not too long from now we’ll be expecting all new recruits to write code,” she added.