Huge demand for digital PR skills in China: R3

The consultancy's latest study shows marketers and clients want much more digital capability from their PR firms than ever before.

The clarion call for digital skills in China’s PR industry is louder than ever, according to a report from R3.

In its fourth China PR and Social AgencyScope, R3 found that demand for digital skills from PR agencies has skyrocketed. In the previous study in 2015, just 3.5% of the surveyed marketers said "digital capabilities" were a very important factor in choosing a PR agency; that leapt to 59% in this latest report.

"We’ve never seen digital capabilities so high up on the list of important factors for selecting a PR agency, said Sabrina Lee, MD of R3 China. "It just shows that the massive shift in the marketing and advertising world has not passed over the PR discipline.

To that end, 43% of respondents said they choose to work with separate PR and digital agencies to get the best out of both disciplines. Almost two-thirds said PR agencies should focus on beefing up their digital capabilities.

R3 interviewed more than 150 marketers and corporate communications leaders, accounting for more than 230 PR agency relationships. Of those, 72% said they were happy with their PR agency, but 33% would consider a pitch, citing a lack of creativity as their primary reason.

Lee said 22% of marketers classed "innovative ideas and effective creative" as very important in agency selection.

"Marketers believe that the more advanced a PR agency is in breakthrough creativity and providing the right content to the target audience, the more competitive they are during the agency selection," she added.

In terms of PR agency perception in China, R3 found that Ogilvy Public Relations and BlueFocus’ BlueDigital topped the charts.

"It is interesting to see how each of these agencies are reaping the rewards of their long-term growth strategies in China," said Lee. "The fact that they have been able to remain at the top of marketers’ perceptions for five years mean their efforts are paying off."

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