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biggest challenge for pr pros

The biggest challenges for PR pro’s right now

Hannah Williams

Nov 1, 2017

Many of us PR professionals feel that securing editorial coverage is getting harder. We’re working in an extremely noisy industry and the volume seems to be cranked up a notch each day. In this blog, we’ll be looking at the biggest PR challenges right now. 

JBH (UK based content agency) recently interviewed key PR influencers to address some of the biggest challenges faced by those in the PR industry in 2017. During this blog, we’ll be looking at JBH’s research and discussing ways to overcome the difficulties uncovered. (Check out the infographic they created here

PR Challenge 1: Rapid technological growth

The first of the PR challenges we’ll be looking at is the constantly changing digital landscape. This can be particularly challenging for those working in more corporate industries. Being a digital company goes beyond creating a digitally optimised strategy. The implementation here is key. Digital disruption is something that must be embraced by all members of staff if our strategy is going to work, meaning that comms teams lose a little control – something they typically obsess over!

Beyond complete digital disruption, it can even be difficult for the most technologically savvy professionals and businesses to stay on top of updates constantly being rolled out across social media networks. By the time we’re aware of something ‘new’, it’s already old news.

Make it work for you

Whilst knowing about the latest technology may not be in your job description, it’s good to be ahead of the curve as this macro trend can, and probably is, seriously affecting your goals. We don’t have to spend hours understanding the science behind new technologies, but it’s worth scrolling through a technology news outlet or following a handful of technology journalists on Twitter. We’d recommend taking a look at Wired or following Rory Cellan-Jones or Mashable tech on Twitter.

pr challenges and how to overcome them

As Andy Barr, owner of 10 Yetis (PR, digital and social media agency) explains, one huge technological advancement to benefit the PR industry is the availability of software to track PR efforts. Media intelligence tools such as Meltwater allow PR pros to both track their existing coverage (to help justify their existence) and find new avenues to land stories. We can use Meltwater Impact to track whether our press releases are being picked up, where they have been shown and the impact of our editorial footprint on social media. In addition, such tools also allow users to understand whether an article has led to an increase in positive brand mentions. Those working in PR can quickly and easily use the data to prove they’re meeting their KPI’s and benefiting the business’s bottom line.

Dark social

pr challenge dark social media

Andy mentions ‘dark social’ in his section of the article. Dark social is creating fear amongst many PR & marketing professionals. Even the term is creepy! Dark social refers to private messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Facebook Messenger and direct messages, often used be people to share articles. The trouble is, since they’re private forms of messaging there’s no way of understanding the true reach of our stories. According to The Drum, dark social has resulted in the inability to track 87% of content shares. 

Dark social isn’t all bad news though! Whilst difficult to track, the clickback rates of these kinds of shares are high because they’re coming from a trusted source. We anticipate that they’ll be a lot more discussion on the PR challenges of dark social in 2018 and beyond. Create shareable, engaging content such as videos to increase your chances of having content shared. Furthermore, keeping track of Google Analytics can help us understand if our content is resonating (even if we can’t see exactly how many times it’s been shared on dark social) Check out this article for more info.

PR Challenge 2: More background noise

pr challenge 60 seconds on the net

With so much content being posted every single minute on the internet, competition for a moment in the spotlight is fiercer than ever. So how can we rise above the rest and get our message heard?

Make it work for you

JBH recommends that we embrace creativity, weirdness and trends. Oh, and create lots of video content! New social media algorithms have filtered out a lot of content from appearing on the newsfeed of the typical social media user. Whilst this can improve user experience through relevance, it’s a nightmare for comms professionals. Up to 70% of content is now banished from our Facebook feeds are filtered out. This has caused an uproar in the industry, with many companies feeling they have been forced to “pay to play” on social media networks.

As Mike Love, PR adviser at Burson-Marsteller states “The challenge is to find out how our stories are best received. It’s not (just) about quantity, it’s about quality”. We should be regularly monitoring the result of our content, and adapting our strategy based on these insights. Check out our blog: Boosting Engagement on Social Media for more top tips on how to create content that is likely to resonate with your audience and not be filtered out by the dreaded algorithm.

PR Challenge 3: Harder to impress journalists

Another of our greatest PR challenges is trying to impress journalists who are bombarded by hundreds of pitches a day. This is making it near enough impossible for our stories to get noticed in the sea of emails flooding their inbox. As much as we’re frustrated by this, we should also be feeling sympathetic to the journalists who are increasingly frustrated at being spammed by irrelevant pitches.

Make it work for you

As JBH suggests, personalise your pitch and target content so it’s relevant to the journalist and demographics we’re targeting. We should aim to provide value to the journalists target readers and not approach the relationship with only ourselves in mind.

We can use Meltwater’s influencer database, to discover journalists mentioning specific topics related to our brand. This allows us to ensure we’re sending our pitches to the right people. We should then send our list of journalists personalised emails, trying to make the pitch relevant to the themes they write about and the audience they write for.

PR Challenge 4: Jaded audiences

As content online becomes more varied, authentic and bizarre, it’s difficult to show our audiences something new. Some demographics, particularly the more tech-savvy, are especially hard to impress. This is because by the time we catch onto the idea the buzz is over!

Make it work for you

Quentin Langley, author of Brand Jack, suggests targeting particular demographics and segmenting our audiences. To surprise an audience and make them pay attention, we need to select an audience that will react to the content.

With help from a media monitoring tool, we can stay abreast of trends and ahead of the competition. This is sure to create a unique angle for messages and offer those more advanced members of our audience content that’ll interest them. But be aware, as Langley rightfully points out, segmentation is key. Our message shouldn’t be one size fits all. Some members of our target market may be reluctant to move with the times and blasting them with the same message as more advanced members may confuse them!

Social listening is a great way to get inside the minds of our audience. Marketing and PR teams should also have high alignment with the sales team to understand which clients fit in which category.

PR Challenge 5: We’re so busy!

Many of us are familiar with the dreaded word ‘budget cuts’ or perhaps we’re a small company, non-profit or start-up with a limited budget. Either way, marketing, comms and PR professionals tend to do multiple job roles in our daily work. Jane Hunt, marketing director of JBH notes that: Marketing, PR, social media and comms are so linked these days, we can often combine strategy and activity. For example, SEO and PR are closely aligned.

pr challeneges and how to overcome them

Make it work for you:

Overcoming PR challenges around time could be solved by partnering up with other departments and utilising tools that take out the manual element of our work. Depending on the size of our departments, we may be able to partner up with those in other roles or with other skillsets to take off some of the pressure. We should also utilise technology to make our day to day roles easier. For example, rather than manually scouring the web for mentions of our press release, spending hours analysing the engagement around our brand on social media, or trying to prove the impact we’ve made on our KPI’s, we can use media intelligence solutions. Meltwater is an all-in-one solution that assists us marketing/comms/pr professionals in daily work life. With help from such tools, users can:

  • Understand whether their key messages resonating
  • Identify how PR has fueled social media engagement
  • Learn how the conversation around your brand is developing.
  • Track how many website views you’ve had off the back of an article
  • Understand key trends

Another way to ease the workload is by creating evergreen content. Instead of constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, create content that is long lasting. Lists, top tips, how to guides and videos are great examples of evergreen content. Evergreen content can be shared again and again which also helps improve SEO! Winning!

PR Challenge 6: We’re drowning in data

JBH also identifies one of the PR challenges that we commonly hear at Meltwater – we’re drowning in data, but don’t know what tools to use to pull the PR value out of the data. Afterall, data is useless if we don’t know what to do with it! PR and marketing is becoming more scientific and data-driven, which is a good thing, but it can be hard to break down the data down into bite-sized insights that we actually understand and can utilise. The days of having a book of press clippings is over!

Make it work for you

Many of us are already using data in our day to day role, however are we looking at the right data? According to OutsideInsight, 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years alone. Many of us only look at internal data to inform strategy, however we need to start looking outside of our company at external data to create forward-looking decisions. Internal data is what has been, it’s like looking in the rear view mirror in our car, whereas external data allows us to look ahead and know what’s happening right now.

Have you ever said, “I’m not good with numbers”? Many of us are scared of data. Traditionally data-driven decisions involved a lot of excel spreadsheets and confusing numbers. However, the means of pulling the data and how it’s presented have advanced. Media monitoring platforms such as Meltwater allow us to break data down in an easy to understand, visual and interactive way.

Here’s an example of an interactive Meltwater dashboard showcasing PR and social media impact.

tough mudder us meltwater dashboard

If you’d like to know more about how Meltwater can help optimise your PR strategy and overcome some of the PR challenges mentioned in this blog? send us an email on

What are your biggest PR Challenges? Let us know on Twitter or by email 🙂