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The 2024 Cision and PRWeek Global Comms Report

Find out how 400+ PR and comms leaders worldwide are approaching the way they work in today’s media landscape.

AI, Earned Media and C-Suite Expectations: PR Tips from the Global Comms Report Webinar

Cision and PRWeek’s 2024 Global Comms Report provides a detailed snapshot of the biggest challenges and opportunities PR and communications industry professionals face right now.

To expand on the report’s findings and understand the implications for PR teams, the recent webinar, Let’s Dig In: Tactics and Takeaways from the 2024 Global Comms Report, brought together leaders from the communications world to share insight on shifting and emerging PR and comms trends.

Sarah O’Grady (SVP, marketing, Cision and Brandwatch), Tara Darrow (VP, corporate comms, T-Mobile), and Brendan Lewis (EVP, global comms and public affairs, Oatly) joined the panel to discuss evolving C-suite expectations, the rapid growth of AI, and much more. While we encourage you to watch the full conversation (now available on demand), we’ve assembled the biggest PR tips and takeaways for teams from that conversation below.

Comms Teams Must Measure up to C-Suite Expectations

This year’s Global Comms Report found that 92% of communications leaders are being sought by the C-suite for counsel more than in previous years. With increased visibility and influence, there’s now an expectation for them to have a positive impact on their companies’ and clients’ bottom lines.

Darrow observed that this trend underlines the importance of teams to think about measurement and proving their worth to the business. “I think you can execute on PR and do a lot of different things over time, but if you don't understand the outcomes of that work you're just shouting into the forest,” she said. “I ask my team to think really critically about measurement. How are we going to look at the impact we're making?”

I think you can execute on PR and do a lot of different things over time, but if you don't understand the outcomes of that work you're just shouting into the forest.

Darrow also highlighted the importance of early involvement with your executive team to influence messaging and ensure it connects with wider goals. “Communications plays such an integral role in storytelling and shaping the narrative around anything that the business does, and having an early part in that process helps us align what we're doing to support that,” she added.

For O’Grady, another key focus alongside measurement and analytics is for teams to “adopt business mindsets, not just comms mindsets.” “We have to be driven by revenue goals, and that includes having a much heavier focus on measurement than comms teams have ever had before,” she said. “If we're doing something, it better be moving the needle for the business, [otherwise] why are we doing it? We have to ask ourselves that question and then make sure we are consistently measuring those activities, monitoring them, and adjusting accordingly.”

How to Approach Generative AI in PR

To what extent are PR and comms professionals utilizing generative AI? This year’s Global Comms Report found mixed results, with 32% saying they use it frequently, 33% using it infrequently, and 27% saying they are considering starting to experiment with it.

The view from the panel? AI is here to stay; however, noted Darrow, the industry is still very much in “test and learn mode” with the technology.

“[We’re] looking at integrating AI into how we work, how we produce content,” she said. “We're seeing some really good results from collaboration; I use it to organize my email and help me understand priorities for my day. There's a myriad of things that I think will help us not only do our job better, but also make us better in some ways. We're seeing really good results from using it for ideas starters or first drafts.”

However, the panel also urged caution in adopting AI, with O’Grady noting that the comms industry has a responsibility to use it in an ethical, sustainable manner. “That includes making sure that your teams feel empowered and know how to use those tools effectively, efficiently, and safely,” she said. “I think it includes developing guidelines for how and where to best lean on AI to help bolster PR and comms efforts.”

Lewis added that he was “enormously frightened” by aspects of AI, namely deepfakes and their ability to spread misinformation. “I think people need to look at what's happening to celebrities and how that will apply to your business,” he said, citing the now-infamous crypto scam video featuring an AI-generated “Elon Musk,” that is still making the rounds on social media. “There might come a time where I have to put [a deepfake response strategy] as a component of our crisis playbook.”

Earned Media’s Place in the PESO Mix

This year’s Global Comms Report indicated a slight shift in where PR pros are prioritizing their PESO options (paid, earned, shared, and owned). Earned media retained its place at the top of the PESO mix with 33% (up from 30% last year), while paid at 25% (down from 28% last year) and owned (also 25%) are next, followed by shared (17%).

O’Grady observed that one reason for earned media’s increase in popularity may be down to shrinking budgets across PR and comms. “Earned media is the kind of publicity that money can't buy,” she said. “There's less money overall to buy with right now so it makes sense to see the paid number drop and earn number go up.”

Cision and Brandwatch’s SVP of marketing added that comms teams can capitalize on this trend by focusing on individual relationships with reporters who can help tell their brand’s story. “Providing unique data, relevant and compelling story ideas to journalists and media folks is crucial,” she said. “A good starting point [to generating earned media] is ensuring that you're targeting the right people in your outreach and start to build relationships with those people.”

Darrow added that she was optimistic about the future of PESO, saying that she could envision a time when it could shift to an equal split. “I do see a scenario where it it's not really either-or. I think it's all these things when you're putting out a strategic PR plan,” she noted. “If you want to connect with an audience, you need to know where they're at. They may be in one of these places, they may be in all of them, and the best plan may be to pull all these [PESO] levers.”

The Power of Employees in Influencer Marketing

Choosing the right influencers to partner with can’t be left to gut instinct anymore. While celebrities are often the go-to choice for influencer partnerships, the 2024 Global Comms Report named consumers as the influencers who had the most sway over their target audiences. Of this year’s survey respondents, 57% ranked “everyday consumers” in their top three for influencer effectiveness.

“Consumers are really great because they’re your legitimizers and evangelizers,” said Oatly’s Lewis. “We hear from them a lot and that keeps us honest as a company. It tells us how our product is performing and suggests ways that they would love [our product] to go.”

The Global Comms Report also showed the value of corporate executives and employees as influencers, with both placing in the top three with 44% each. O’Grady and Darrow shared their insight on the potential of employee social media advocacy programmes.

“I watched the social algorithms really morph out of favor for brands, starting to show their content less in feed in favor of individual content,” O’Grady said. “Knowing what we know about people trusting people over brands, your brand is truly sitting on a goldmine of influence that most companies have not fully activated.”

Darrow discussed some of the tactics T-Mobile uses for employee advocacy, saying: “We have several execs out on social media, and they use that as a platform to share their thoughts, whether in longer form posts on LinkedIn or shorter on Facebook. We're even exploring Instagram, showing a glimpse into their daily lives but also giving a broader or thought leadership perspective. Those [tactics] have been really successful for us.”

Where Next? Navigating PR and Comms in 2024

While it's impossible to ever truly predict the future, PR and comms teams should keep certain values and principles in mind over the next 12 months. A focus on demonstrating value (both inwardly to the C-suite and outwardly via your employees), building meaningful connections with your target audience, and being nimble with emerging technologies like AI, will help put you on solid ground for the rest of 2024.

For the full conversation, watch the webinar on demand. Get more insights from our survey of 400 communications leaders worldwide by downloading the 2024 Global Comms Report.

To learn about the solutions available to help you apply these findings to your comms strategy, speak to one of our experts.

Global Comms Report Webinar

About Simon Reynolds
About Simon Reynolds

Simon is the Content Marketing Manager at Cision. He worked as a journalist for more than a decade, writing on staff and freelance for Hearst, Dennis, Future and Autovia titles before joining Cision in 2022.