Today's PR people need to understand algorithms to achieve cut-through

The days when PR effort was simply measured by weight of media coverage and spurious and meaningless metrics are almost gone.

Algorithms are now pervasive throughout all aspects of our lives, argues Jim Hawker
Algorithms are now pervasive throughout all aspects of our lives, argues Jim Hawker

However, while that of course is a positive and welcome step forwards, the reality is that what also needs to take place is an equal importance placed upon the planning phases of earned media campaigns.

Simply achieving coverage in key editorial titles does not automatically mean that the content will be seen by the target audience.


Also see: More than a third of PR firms still use AVEs for measurement


Earned media is increasingly consumed through filters, controlled by algorithms within search engines and social platforms that hugely influence what publisher content is visible.

It is also massively affected by the strategic editorial partnerships that the social channels themselves have with the publishers for the distribution of their content.


We are living in a curated world which simplifies our choice and exposure to wider brands.

Jim Hawker, co-founder and director of Threepipe


Simply understanding which platforms your audience spends time on and how those platforms are curating the content is crucial to ensure that your PR efforts have a chance of even being seen in the first instance. Having an understanding of algorithms has become a key component of the day job.

The word algorithm certainly has a negative connotation; mostly driven by Facebook which overnight demanded billions of dollars of marketing cash from brands that it had courted with the promise of decent organic reach.

This was certainly one of the biggest cons of all time but they have got away with it by providing brands with a hugely effective targeting platform for campaigns to drive revenue and awareness through a predominately mobile experience.

It's not just Facebook of course.

The reality is that more and more of our daily choices are dictated by algorithms.

With so many searches starting on Amazon and Google, what we see is a limited number of product and brand recommendations based on purchase history and previous search behaviour.

Algorithms are now pervasive throughout all aspects of our lives, affecting everything from what friendships we maintain, what films we watch and even who we date and fall in love with.

We are living in a curated world, which simplifies our choice and exposure to wider brands.

The challenge for us as PR professionals is to understand how our campaigns can continue to achieve cut-through and succeed.

Strong creative content is, of course, key, but that is not enough. We need to have a thorough and holistic understanding of the consumer touch points available to brands and how to develop a strategy that is considered across multiple channels.

As a result, more agencies are investing in digital strategists and planning tools.

The world of PR is far more complex than it has ever been and requires much more focus on strategic planning or there really is no point in worrying about measurement – as there will be nothing meaningful to capture.

Jim Hawker is co-founder and director of Threepipe

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