Q&R conducted two Pulse Checks prior to this week’s event at Home House looking at “Digital Communications – an integrated or isolated entity in the PR mix?’ The first assessed the overall optimism across the industry for 2014 with 86% saying they expected 2014 to be better than 2013. 

The second Pulse CheckTM asked PR Agency heads if they believed Digital Communications was a job for digital specialists or traditional PRs with 50% declaring that any decent PR knows that today you have to be good at both. Interestingly, 19% said that it remains a job for digital specialists with one respondent citing, ‘As someone who worked in PR and then transitioned to a digital agency, I have come to realise just how wide ranging digital is. There are some things that PRs can cross skill e.g. blogger relations but other tasks require deep technical understanding.’

25% said that it very much depends on the comms objective, reminding all of the need to consider what it is the client is trying to achieve before launching a digital communications strategy with one respondent noting, ‘PR practitioners need to have an overview and knowledge of digital comms in 2014 but specialists sometimes have to be involved in the delivery.’

There is equally no shortage of questions around content and how this drives Digital

Communications forward. Bite recently launched its ‘Anti-Pollution Crusade’ highlighting that, up until recently, content ‘has been produced to please algorithms not people’ and it’s time to focus on ‘content purity’ if you are to have any success in cut through.

Ultimately, it’s about how you reach the ‘person behind the keyboard’ and identifying the right approach is key.


  • Kath Easthope, European MD of Bite
  • Chris Talago, Head of Waggener Edstrom, EMEA
  • Chris McCafferty, Founder & MD of Kaper PR
  • David Wilson, Bell Pottinger’s Group MD

Discussion Highlights:

  • Each of our panelists contributed actively to the debate, chaired by Ken Deeks, Amber Group. A series of observations were made around shaping best practice, specifically:
  • What the client wants: is your Agency aligned to the client’s objective? Working within the client vernacular is your principal starting point
  • Digital Communications Best Practice: there are a plethora of options out there to consider. For example, a standalone & embedded approach offered by Bell Pottinger & Wired (both designed to be at the vanguard of new thinking), a step by step approach (outlined by Waggener Edstrom), a focus on great communications & content (outlined by Bite) or a ‘crossroads’ approach (favoured by Kaper) where digital, PR and advertising all come together
  • Content purity: it’s all about the story and the technology you use to deliver it
  • Client Service Strategy: having someone in the Agency who really understands every aspect of the Digital Communications equation – who can identify the client’s challenge and come up with the right solution/s
  • A rare breed: are today’s Digital Specialists simply ‘passionate mathematicians’ and, when it comes to recruitment, should we look beyond the white, middle class graduate pool for tomorrow’s digital comms geniuses
  • A smart approach: when starting out, the idea of ‘piloting and then amplifying a campaign’ is recommended & having single-minded offerings that use simple, clear language is fundamental
  • Be brave: ascertain how ‘bold’ your client’s brand is – can the company really embrace the full throttle of what digital communications has to offer?
  • The Right Conversation: having a direct conversation with your target audience is both valuable and makes you relevant
  • Rhythm of the business: an appreciation for the client’s sales cycle will help inform the Digital Communications cycle
  • Digital Comms impact on PR: PR continues to deliver a lot value – don’t underestimate it


  • Measurement: insight should always be a key part of the strategy
  • Aspirational CMOs: if you have one client-side, exploit it
  • Likely winners: will be those who create ‘innovation hubs’ in their businesses
  • How PR is changing: PR is not just about words – it’s about moving imagery
  • Specialist skills: new recruits needs to be able to pitch, to get under the skin of a client’s business and have the gumption to monetize when an opportunity arises
  • The future: keep it simple, obsess about people, take a back to basics approach, explore the native advertising model, integrate, deliver multiple products but keep sight