Three key takeaways from Cision’s State of Global Comms Report

Strategic communicators find themselves in a remarkably strong position in 2023. New technology, changing client needs, and a closing gap between B2B and B2C has resulted in PR and Marketing teams growing in organizational importance once again. But with (here goes) economic issues, supply chain shortages, a strengthening ESG agenda, enhanced scrutiny on DE&I practices, post-Covid fallout, and much more to contend with – is PR and Marketing biting off more than it can chew?

This analysis is drawn from the PRWeek/Cision State of Global Comms Report 2023, which consults over 440 industry professionals across 10 countries for its sixth annual iteration – taking a deep dive into issues facing global communications professionals.

As with our previous Cision report takeaways – we’ve read through every last page and dissected every stat so you don’t have to, and pulled together three key findings.

  1. Strategic comms makes a mark at the top

B2B PR and Marketing is all about connecting brands to buyers and establishing a reliable, authentic brand voice, and PR and Marketing professionals have typically had to engage many audiences to achieve this. These span marketing teams, journalists, buyers and ratifiers, who all stake an interest in the creation and distribution of engaging and effective copy. But in 2023, all evidence suggests that increasing numbers of agencies now have a direct line to the C-suite.

As we highlighted way back in 2020, the pandemic made PR and Marketing invaluable to higher-ups, and with further tumultuous market conditions dominating 2022’s economy, it comes as no surprise that in-house and agency teams have strengthened their position with the executive leadership in their organizations.

Almost half (47%) of global comms professionals now report directly to the CEO as brand building gains even more popularity. This is a clear sign of new reporting structures, with strategic communicators having a bigger say in corporate decision-making than ever before – as PR and Marketing teams become viewed as trusted advisors, and today’s executives seek their guidance to navigate situations beyond crisis management. This relates to all sorts of business matters, not just on buying messages, but also on employee issues and social justice as scrutiny on DE&I and sustainability practices increases.

But it’s not just about preserving image, it’s about integrating trust and forward-thinking into an existing image. As one respondent to Cision’s study highlights, “In times of turmoil, PR has an even bigger opportunity to help brands build or restore trust.

2. New ways of exploiting data is driving more targeted campaigns

The work of comms professionals has always been rooted in managing human relationships, but PR and Marketing are becoming increasingly multi-faceted – with the modern B2B professional not just skilled in the traditional disciplines of copywriting and pitching, but in the emerging field of data analytics to assist with content development.

Respondents to the Cision study were given 11 functions over which communications has purview and which tech tools assist with. Tasks including news/media monitoring and press release distribution appear, and the results are telling – as content ideation/strategy/creation came out on top. This is broken down further into the use of research and AI, which is no wonder given how recent developments such as ChatGPT have left a lasting impact on the industry. Simply put, communicators now rely more on technology to assist in early-stage research during the creative process of producing content than ever before.

In fact, OpenAI, the developers behind ChatGPT, unveiled GPT-4 earlier this month, announcing that the programme will be 60% more accurate in fact-finding and 82% more ethical than its predecessor. As AI proliferates, let’s not forget that it’s how PR and marketing pros apply research to craft creative copy that makes the difference.

PR is not just about words, but the ideas and meaning behind the words, as IBA CEO Judith Ingleton-Beer asserted at the beginning of the year. A good story relies on a well-formed argument, and generative technology will only become more helpful in researching and drafting – so we can undoubtedly expect GPT software to obtain even more relevance in next year’s State of Global Comms Report!

Content is king, and the important role of data in content-driven SEO should also not be overlooked. Whether in the race to hit that sought-after first page of Google results (SERPs) or gain a better understanding of intent and user behaviour, SEO data maintains its importance, and the study respondents agree.

Shouting the loudest in a crowded room is easier with a megaphone, and with the race on to amplify clients messaging, PR and Marketing must not forget to maintain the human element. In the race for SEO, we need to remember the power of BEO, or Brain Engine Optimization.

3. Technology PR occupies the sweet spot

There is widespread optimism across the PR and Communications landscape, largely driven by the increased relevance of brand image. Although communicators in the Arts, Financial Services and Healthcare verticals are all confident about the future, Technology has an even more impressive self-assuredness – with 68% of PR professionals stating they felt optimistic, and just 17% concerned about the state of the industry.

Why could this be?

Perhaps this is because technology practitioners feel comfortable with some of those strategic CEO goals. The report highlights that 54% of respondents believe that “building sustainable growth and value for the brand” is top of a CEOs priorities – and tech will undoubtedly have a role to play in addressing this.

To market their sustainable growth and value, organizations will be turning to Tech PR like never before. Take the example of Transport for London – who’s own net-zero strategy has seen a commitment to install 3,000 to 5,000 rapid charging points by 2025, and a digitally integrated new cashless payment system by 2030, albeit controversially. This won’t just involve companies providing electric vehicle technology, but those operating in PayTech, InsurTech, and digital self-service – all of which require PR teams to drive growth.

Here at IBA, tech is our speciality! More specifically, positioning technology topics in a range of key industries and geographies across the globe. From publicizing our InsurTech clients bespoke Electric Vehicle Database and the end of PoS terminals on social media, to pitching pieces on how Label and Artwork Management solutions are key to meeting eco-conscious packaging requirements, and even interviews around the role of data analysis in making manufacturing more sustainable – we’re seeing first-hand the increased brand focus on tech and sustainable growth and value.

Building on success – what’s changed?

Two years ago we highlighted the key takeaways from Cisions’s State of Global Comms Report 2021. The main headline was that PR and Marketing were beginning to get the ear of C-suite executives, as data crunching and an expanding social media toolkit also earned a place in our piece.

Fast forward two years to 2023 and new generative technology is driving developments in research, copywriting, and analysis, but B2B PR and Marketing has rightfully secured its spot on the C-suite table. With a combination of technology and deep data insights driving creative content decisions, let’s not lose it…  

Tom Wrath is a PR Executive at IBA International.

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