Key takeaways from the OG PR roundtable

  • December 8, 2022
  • Reading time: 3 min

Four PR leaders walk into a room. One data, one teleco, one fintech, and one health and security.

No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. Instead, it was time for Octopus Group’s long-awaited PR trends debate.

Armed with a fresh set of notebooks, a tower of beautifully arranged artisanal pastries, and – most importantly – a thirst for knowledge, the OG B2B PR team sat down to pick the brains of four of our most trusted clients.

What followed was an informative, intriguing, and insightful conversation about the big challenges, opportunities, and potential future developments for the comms profession.

Here are our eleven key takeaways:

  1. Proving value: The topic of proving ROI was high on comms leaders’ agendas and triggered an all-around sense of frustration. The conversation centred on how C-suites continue to misunderstand – or underestimate – the value of PR. Proving ROI to internal stakeholders is a perennial issue and something comms leaders are continuing to grapple with. Participants agreed it can be equally as challenging to demonstrate the benefit of not appearing in something, confirming that ‘it’s when it goes wrong that people notice it’.
  2. Business Alignment: Everyone agreed that it’s important to align comms to the overall business goals and ensure this story is clear for business leaders. The key to proving worth is speaking in a language the C-suite understands and finding ways to measure and demonstrate a link between comms activities and the commercial end game.
  3. Internal alignment: There were animated nods of agreement with the statement ‘too much CMO input can impact creativity’, largely focusing on the balance between ‘selling products’ and ‘telling stories’. One attendee explained that instead, their preference was to report directly to a CEO, as they felt it gave them that much-needed space to push boundaries – plus a better understanding of how they add value to the business.
  4. Understanding audiences: It was agreed that brands increasingly need insight into what influences their audiences to increase impact and demonstrate to stakeholders the value of different types of exposure. One attendee explained how they regularly go to battle with the C-suite over whether they should target the ‘big boys’ – such as the FT – or instead, focus on smaller specialist trade titles. Arguing that even though they may only have 5,000 readers, they are reaching a tightly defined and highly invested audience.
  5. Trendtracking: In addition to audience insight, comms leaders agreed it’s more difficult than ever to keep on top of what is going on in the outside world given the pace of change, social media, and the 24hr news cycle. They agreed that more support is needed from agencies and tech to fill this gap.
  6. Issues of influence: We discussed the growing role of B2B influencers. We agreed that channelling the voice of your brand through someone else can be a useful vehicle to resonate with the right people. However, most agreed that identifying the right influencers, assessing their value, and quantifying their impact are ongoing challenges.   
  7. The power of brand: Brand positioning was high on people’s agendas, with an active discussion around ESG and DE&I commitments and comms’ role in avoiding tokenism and virtue signalling. Participants felt that their organisations should be dedicating more resources towards brand positioning communications, in light of the heavy focus on demonstrating ROI. Attendees felt starting with a deeper understanding of audiences – who are they, what they need and care about – was important in making the case for clearer brand comms.
  8. Tech enablement: One attendee stressed that a major opportunity they see is to enhance the tech stack in PR saying: ‘we are a marketing function, so it’s frustrating we’re not integrated with HubSpot or Salesforce. This is definitely where agencies can step in to help argue the case to business.’ The tech opportunities for proving ROI were discussed and comms leaders agreed there’s a big opportunity to make progress here in 2023 and beyond.
  9. Paid attention: Getting to grips with the opportunities around paid media was another point of discussion. Crucially, it was agreed that agencies need to really understand brands, immersing themselves in the weeds of their specific challenges and the wider sector to agree on the most appropriate paid media strategies to support brand communications.
  10. Getting social: When discussing our marketing cousins’ ways of working, one attendee asked: ‘why don’t we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator for PR? It’s a fabulous comms tool’. Another attendee explained how they had used Sales Navigator to double event attendance. All participants agreed that the remit of comms leaders is changing and channels like LinkedIn will play a growing role in the future.
  11. The state of integration: Following on from LinkedIn, there was a wider conversation about how marketing and PR still need to integrate further, along with some frustrations about which function is setting the agenda internally. One attendee talked about ongoing misalignment with their content function and the opportunity to drive greater impact through working more closely together. All agreed there’s more opportunity here and it’s still a work in progress.

We finished the roundtable with hearty thanks and a firm agreement to absolutely do this again, before tucking into the remaining pastries with wild abandon.

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