Digitalisation, Fake News and Integrity: The Changing Landscape of PR Globally

The International Public Relations Network provides global in-sight on how PR agencies are adapting to the new PR trends. Is PR evolving into a digital only world? According to a recent, global survey conducted on behalf of the International Public Relations Network (IPRN), 58% of PR agencies believe classic Public Relations is changing as digitalisation moves into the communication space.

In fact, 95% of the IPRN agencies now offer a form of digital service through partner agencies or internal teams. Despite the increase in digital services available, the biggest challenge that IPRN agencies face today is integrating digital communication successfully, with 36% of the agencies agreeing that digital integration is the key to success.

To meet this challenge, the results indicated that agencies worldwide are upskilling their teams and directly incorporating digital skills in their planning. The integration of digital is seen as providing new opportunities for PR; agencies can extend their online reach and capabilities whilst monitoring results to improve reporting and to efficiently measure the effectiveness of PR activity.

Measurability is a key interest for clients – 86% of IPRN members stated that their clients expected PR to have a more direct influence on sales; with 89% highlighting clients are interested in the measurability of the impact PR delivers. As the use of digital communication and online coverage increases, the availability of detailed reporting on results will provide agencies with the skillset to highlight the value that PR delivers through the measurement of online reach, tracking and lead generation. Says Nicole Capper, Managing Director of MANGO-OMC, the South African member of the IPRN: “We have significantly shifted our reporting focus from the outdated mode of AVE’s to metrics that show engagement, reach and sentiment.

We also track backlinks from publishing sites and social media to measure impact on client website analytics and have extended this further to incorporate SEO, PPC and digital marketing into our basket of services. It’s not just about measuring PR’s impact on sales, it’s also about showing how public relations content can add significant value to digital platform metrics and the digital brand profile.”

Print is disappearing and fake news is dominating – The type of media used by agencies is changing, with 74% of respondents noticing a decline in earned print coverage vs. earned digital coverage and an average of 50% of publications only being available online. The online world impacts how content is considered, created and pitched. The space that the online world provides has created a world of fast consumption and high demand of new content online.

However, to meet this demand, there has been an increase in inaccurate, misleading content and false news deteriorating the quality of content online. In fact, the IPRN agencies highlighted that the influx of fake news is affecting trust and reputation, destroying core principles that help to build great client relationships. This sudden flood of deceptive news, and the speed at which content is shared, has changed the landscape of PR as we once knew it. Nevertheless, the key to successful digitalisation is quality content that the public can trust. 

Quality content and the integrity of PR – PR professionals are the content kings, with the skills to create high quality, interesting and ethical content. The digital world can be trusted but authoritative and trustworthy content is crucial to reduce the amount of fake news being consumed. 
Says Capper: “We have live reporting that measures the real-time impact of ethical, value-driven PR content on brand website and social media metrics. Digital audiences are increasingly media-savvy and reputable and value-driven content is rewarded by high engagement and interest. There is a sense that digital audiences are starting to recognise the endorsement that journalistic driven media can bring.” 

Despite the changing landscape, 50% of IPRN agencies plan to strengthen the classic PR skills within their business, with press relations, press release writing, feature and opinion leader content and influencer relations playing a key role in verifying the importance of authoritative content and expert media relations.

Luis Gonzalez, IPRN President, explains, “Trustworthy content is more important than ever, the increase of digital and social media calls for quality and credible content. PR Professionals will continue to be integral as content creators. We are the content kings and digital content cannot gain authority without the integrity of PR. The fast growth of digital initially positioned this channel away from traditional communication but the results of this survey demonstrate that there’s no doubt that integration is the way forward and digital communication will find a natural place in the world of PR.”

The IPRN survey scopes further insight into the world of B2B/B2C social media, artificial intelligence and the dark social. To find out more, visit