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Challenges PR and communications face – and how to overcome them

The PR and communications industry contributes enormously to the UK economy, employing around 83,000 people with a total value of £12.9bn, according to the 2016 PR Census. With strong growth in the last few years and young average age of worker, the future of the communications industry is bright. However, this does not make it exempt from challenges: the rise of technology, fake news, a constantly-connected society and the expectation of a multi-skilled workforce has created a complex and dynamic business landscape for those in the industry. Take a look at some of the key challenges and opportunities facing communications and PR professionals in 2019:

The communications manager needs to be comfortable across a wide range of tasks

The modern PR and communications landscape is moving towards more multi-skilled roles. In the past, functions were much more segmented, with teams comprised of account managers, media relations specialists, PR team members and corporate communications experts. Now, many hiring managers expect communications managers to have a broad understanding of all of these areas, with candidates naturally picking up experience across PR, media relations and internal communications as they progress in their careers. Silo thinking is a thing of the past for the industry, with the line between PR, communications, social media and digital marketing diminishing as teams become more cross-disciplinary. If professionals can pick up basics from SEO and copywriting jobs, that’s even better.

Max Forsyth, Communications Consultant at EMR and key member of our Investor Relations and Communications teams, has a wealth of experience and knowledge in the comms and PR sector. He says the expectation of a well-rounded skillset is evident across internal and external communications, and that those candidates who can demonstrate experience in a variety of functions are in high demand by employers.

In addition to channel and intranet management, email campaigns and ambient media, organisations are looking for comms professionals who can align internal communications with overarching business goals and strategy. Knowing how to segment and create communications strategies and calendars that align with a long-term business strategy is a niche skillset that is incredibly valued by clients. Internal communications managers need to be able to provide insights and opinions to very senior stakeholders and participate in business strategy planning and development, offering more fluid communications counsel.

Modern technology has changed the way we communicate

Communications and PR professionals with technological know-how have a natural advantage in the digital age. Many clients are looking for people with social media skills, as budgets contract and businesses look to do more with less. People who can be creative on LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms are now competing with more experienced professionals who are not digital natives. 

Intranets and social networks are contributing to the multi-function role many PR and comms professionals are now playing, particularly when it comes to crisis communications. The omnipresent nature of the internet means that messages spread incredibly quickly, and communications experts must work fluidly and rapidly to control the message. The public can now share content about brands and organisations at the click of a button, but in turn, modern communication such as media monitoring and AI can be incredibly useful to for those in the industry. This ‘help and hinder’ impact is echoed in the 2019 Global Communications Report released by the USC Center for Public Relations, which predicts that technology will help people become more engaged, but also more misinformed and polarised.

Fake news threatens how people perceive brands

Misinformation is no new trend, however it is particularly prevalent in the media in 2019. Fake news has been a buzzword in the last few years and 25.5% of European organisations say they have been affected by fake news in 2017/2018, according to the 2019 European Communication Monitor survey. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for communications and PR: professionals must be skilled in dealing with fake news, protecting a brand’s reputation and regaining trust, something which is regarded as one of the key challenges for the communications sector in 2019. However, most organisations don’t have plans and checks in place to identify fake news, making this a prime opportunity for candidates.

PR and communications professionals should harness these opportunities

Communications teams are an integral part of organisations of all sizes and scopes, with the ability to shape how brands are perceived by people both internally and externally. While there are challenges facing the industry, these can also be viewed as opportunities to demonstrate a multi-dimensional skillset and secure new roles. As society changes and media roles evolve, so too will the role of the communications professional.

At EMR, we have a breadth of internal and external communications and PR experience within our dedicated team of recruitment specialists. We’d love to help you secure your next communications job, whether that’s at entry-level or as a director, or find the perfect candidate. Contact us to see how we can help.

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