Article | 16 Jun 2022

What Is Modern PR: 3 Insights Into A Changing Industry Landscape (+ the tools you need to adopt for success)

Posted in PR and Communications, Freelancer, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Learning, Client,

The definition and value of PR is changing.

More and more businesses and industry professionals view PR as an umbrella term for a variety of activities. Shifting the what, the why, and the how, and turning a once one-dimensional discipline, into a well-oiled, multi-faceted machine.

While the positive traction has enabled greater opportunity for both client and professional, it can be difficult to follow what's relevant and what isn't. The Work Crowd recently hosted a special webinar event on what really constitutes modern PR, and how to leverage the best tools and techniques - new and legacy - for tangible impact.

Watch the webinar in full here. Featuring Richard Benson, Co-Founder of Releasd, Steph Bridgeman, Founder of Experienced Media Analysts, and Nikki Alvey, Owner and Director of Media Hound PR.

Insight #1: No More Cookie Cutter KPIs

Client KPIs like volume of coverage, website traffic, share of voice or ‘buzz’ around a product launch remain relevant staples of successful PR. Yet there’s been a shift towards a more bespoke approach to setting and measuring KPIs which has accelerated in the 2020s - something all three of our panellists have seen first hand.

Clients are more aware of the difference between meaningful results and vanity metrics, and how achieving specific goals requires setting specific benchmarks – oftentimes, benchmarks which are as unique as their business.

Advancements in technology and metric software play a central role (more on this below). Clients and PR professionals are recognising the vast capabilities such tools have in measuring PR success, meaning there’s no longer a need to fit a square peg into a triangular hole.

“In our database over the last six years or so, there’s been over 400,000 bespoke KPIs created to measure PR success against.”

– Richard Benson, Co-Founder of Releasd

Increased awareness and capabilities have resulted in greater buy-in all around. Clients want to see quantitative and qualitative data that is relevant to their business, and can justify their spend internally. PR professionals want to invest more time and resources into developing reporting to establish true partnership with clients, inform strategy, and lead to greater opportunities.

All this being said, creating custom KPIs and measuring their success is a modern complexity many PR professionals haven’t yet faced. Opening this conversation and precisely determining benchmarks is imperative - before activity begins. This will help avoid misaligned objectives and outlooks, and unmanaged expectations which can rear at any stage of a campaign.

Tool Takeaway: Platforms like Releasd ( has capabilities to both input of tailored metrics and measure against them. It showcases modern PR activities in visual formats, making it a simple, digestible and effective way to demonstrate impact.

Insight #2: Metric Sophistication Has Exploded 

Advancements in AI and data-driven software now enable greater sophistication and accuracy in measurement strategies. Automating metric tactics isn’t only a less time-consuming way of gaining accurate insights, but it enables PR pros to spend more time on things that are firmly “human-led”, according to Steph Bridgeman.

This might include strategic and creative thinking, building relationships with key media contacts, and empowering clients to take ownership over their PR programmes.

“There's two different directions: automation and an increased need to make sense of the data. Sometimes it’s about measuring what doesn’t happen.”

– Steph Bridgeman, Founder of Experienced Media Analysts

When we think of ‘traditional’ metric capabilities, we might think about the number of views on a video, comments on a byline, or pieces of print coverage secured. Now, the explosion of tools, APIs, sources of data, and algorithms, as Richard Benson says, has enabled a more sophisticated understanding of outcomes.

The best way to keep measurement benchmarks consistent and accurate? Use affirmed frameworks which can help you better analyse reactions, decision-making behaviour, and ways your work is being perceived and received. Measurement and evaluation frameworks such as this one from the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications provides a good example.

Tool Takeaway: The new interactive tool from AMEC provides greater means to effectively plan, research and evaluate PR success, keeping the client at the core. Alternatively, adopting software like ace media can help you holistically manage and measure a campaign from start to end. 

Insight #3: Diversification Is Everything

The need to evolve has always been well-recognised in PR, but it’s certainly advanced in recent years. Agencies which have historically centred their services around PR, media relations and traditional communication touchpoints are now expanding into social strategy, content and marketing offerings, multi-media support such as webinars and podcasts – even in-depth analytics.

“Clients are looking for more partnerships beyond media relations - help with internal comms messaging, with their social media, and how that content plugs into sales and events.”

– Nikki Alvey, Owner & Director of Media Hound PR

Dark social could be the next central diversification. Referring to platforms which don’t contain tracking codes, or are encrypted, like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, the volume of content shared across dark social is prolific. Because of encryptions and limitations, it remains a challenge to measure against. Nevertheless, it’s a frontrunner which will likely be cracked in the coming years.

“Dark social is the Holy Grail in PR sharing. You have someone who’s thinking about a story and thinking about specific people very close to them who would like that story as well.”

– Richard Benson, Co-Founder of Releasd

The vital need to balance client wants and requests, with client needs is imperative. As a hired professional, your objective is to support the achievement of client objectives. As with traditional PR, diversification only works if it operates alongside relevancy.

Many PR professionals who’ve been in the industry for a decade or more may naturally have broader skills or experience with more tools and disciplines they can deploy across client needs. For younger or more junior members of the industry, prioritising multidisciplinary learning is a must. Taking online courses through platforms like PA Training or even the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) can be hugely beneficial, but real-time experience will always be one of the best ways to learn new factions. 

Tool Takeaway: Not to toot our own horn, but The Work Crowd’s blogs, insights, and webinars cover disciplines across PR, communications, social media, content, marketing, events and more. Plus, if you’re a freelancer, joining our network of self-employed professionals can open doors to collaboration and real-time learning.

Bonus Insight: Media Relations Is Still King

It may seem like all change, but according to Nikki Alvey, modern PR must still encapsulate its core, underlying purpose: media relations.

Building relationships with quality media outputs and relevant journalists isn’t confined to what we view as traditional PR. Few businesses will give up a high calibre opportunity in lieu of social engagement – particularly if that’s with a strong title.

“Clients are paying you for coverage and quality media outputs. Investing time into your journalist relationships, maximising coverage opportunities, and knowing how to stand out is really important.”

– Nikki Alvey, Owner & Director of Media Hound PR

This simple staple could be the most impactful – not only for businesses but for professionals within the industry.

Final thoughts

The differentiation of traditional vs. modern PR might seem vast, but in reality, the foundational best practices which drive outcomes remain central to the industry.

PR may be an organic, growing machine, but adopting the right tactics, tools and techniques at the start of your strategy will enable you to effectively evolve alongside it. And ensure it continues to perform for and in the best interests of your clients.

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