2020 was a year of challenges and uncertainty and while the rest of the world was shaken by a global pandemic, PR and communication professionals found themselves front and center of the global businesses stage. Their seat at the table is more realistic than ever — 85% of PR pros state that their C-suite is more dependent on their strategic guidance than ever with their support required in a number of departments ranging from marketing to human resources.

Covid-Comms will be remembered

The right communications at the right time have now become a C-suite priority and PR’s value extends beyond just informing the sales pipeline. Communications teams have been keeping organization’s reputations intact throughout this crisis – not something every organization can say they have handled successfully. Negative Covid-communications will have a lasting legacy on how an organization is perceived – over 70% of UK respondents said they would avoid a company that had been irresponsible during the crisis and the same proportion said they would remember those that made bad decisions too.

PR and marcomms showed a turn of foot that got it noticed from above

PR showed itself to be the most agile sector when adapting to new ways of working – which couldn’t have been a more valuable trait during this pandemic. Compelled to rapidly adjust, the PR industry swiftly set about adjusting to the new normal.

Marketing communications was used to help and inform internal staff, keep morale up and ensure everyone knew the company was coping with the challenges whether through furloughs or shorter weeks.

It was used to create digital events to bring together customers, prospects and new solutions essential to keep business as usual during difficult times.

It was used to help bring new solutions to the market – here at IBA we have been involved in launching remote contact centers, remote service, remote loss adjusting and remote insurance claims – new services all fast forwarded by the pandemic and all needing to be communicated to the eager ears of potential customers.

The tools of the trade have just got digitally better

Over three quarters of B2B buyers and their sales counterparts say that they prefer the new, Covid-induced digital reality. Effective digital communication and new-found ways of networking have become essential when choosing to engage with people – whether that be customers, clients, staff or journalists.

Remote working has forced countless zoom calls, internal and external online meetings, and events – the demand for greater communication escalates. But other technology investments, particularly in data analytics, will be key.

Data analytics – identify, take aim, fire!

We all know that data analytics can provide insights into customer behaviours and sanction data driven, insightful business decisions – so it is no shock that analytic tools have become precious and integral assets to PR and comms professionals. In this digital age, just posting articles and hoping for the best is not enough. Advancements in technology have made insights much more easily accessible and as such, have become a crucial tool for PR and comms experts.

There are now analytic tools that offer the ability to observe who has been reading your stories and from where, and pinpoint which messages are driving sales most successfully and why. When used in PR, analytics results can allow for a much more targeted approach – providing relevant media and journalist suggestions which can boost media placement opportunities.

Measurement and analytic tools such as Power BI, Hubspot, Marketo can show a real focus on long-term campaign results, indicating to company managers that PR pros are keen on achieving ROI through these efforts.

Keeping that seat at the table

PR and comms pros have certainly proved their worth during the last 12 months. While businesses still adapt to the new normal, PR and comms professionals are top of the speed dial list. While company leaders are ever so reliant on this strategic counsel, PR and comms experts have shown themselves worthy of a seat at the corporate table. But will it maintain that seat?

Yes, new developments in data driven analytics will help marketing pros align their proposed PR strategy with company and C-suite goals and ensure common ground. Yes, by adapting to emerging comms platforms, marketing teams kept communication flowing and adjusted to the new ways of working. And yes the industry believes the industry has done a stellar job!

Let’s see if it can hold its pivotal role with the C-Suite going forward.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Client Services at IBA International.

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