PR measurement and digital communications two biggest skills gaps for PR

The Qualifications for Communicators Trends Survey 2015 reveals that PR measurement is the top skills gap and digital communications/social media is the top skill that respondents want to address in the next 12 months. After measurement the next two biggest skills gaps identified are budget management and crisis management.

I find it particularly alarming that while measurement is the top skills gap (identified by 53% of respondents), strategic planning is only identified by 32%. This is alarming because it is impossible to do strategic planning well without an excellent understanding of measurement and evaluation. Last year research and analysis was the third biggest skills gap, but this has been replaced this year by crisis management which was identified by 37% of respondents.

The fact that digital communications/social media is still the skill that most respondents intend to address in the next 12 months isn’t surprising as it is changing so rapidly. The rise of crisis management can perhaps also be explained by this as companies and organisations are under far greater scrutiny than ever before from individual citizens and special interest groups all of who have the ability to use social media to instantly reveal what they find.

Another shocking finding is that more than a third (35%) aren’t measuring their public relations activity. When I train and do consultancy with public sector PR professionals I frequently have to remind them how good public sector PR is as often they believe that things are so much more sophisticated and professional in the private sector. The reality that I see is quite often the exact opposite and there are often far higher levels of professionalism in the public sector. The findings reflect this as 68% of those in the public sector measure their work, as opposed to just 52% in the private sector. This lack of measurement perhaps explains why measurement is the top skills gap as people aren’t measuring because they don’t know the best methods and tools to do it.

Respondents were also asked how they were monitoring their activities with social/digital media tracking tools, informal feedback and quantitative research (online or face-to-face surveys) ranking as the top three. However, once again there were significant difference between the private and public sector.

This year PR Academy asked a new question – Do senior management teams understand that public relations and communications management is not just a tactic? Once again the public sector out-performed the private sector with a massive 41% of private sector respondents either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the statement, compared to just 31% of public sector respondents.


The results reflect my own anecdotal experience as my most popular PR training course is ‘modernised PR’ which teaches digital communications and social media specifically for public relations (most courses focus on just marketing communications or digital marketing). My two fastest growing courses are for the skills identified in the survey: PR measurement and evaluation; and modernised crisis communications. They also reflect the results of the CIPR State of the Profession survey which also highlighted a lack of digital and social PR skills as a major problem for the PR industry.

This is the fifth year that PR Academy has run its annual Qualifications for Communicators Trends Survey to find out more about its students’ status and views on professional qualifications. It was conducted online using Survey Monkey in November and December 2014. The results are based on 123 respondents – all past and present students of PR Academy, who are practising communicator with 86% working in-house.

Disclaimer: I’m a member of the PR Academy faculty and teach on its courses. I’m also an elected member of the CIPR council and teach on its professional training courses (Advanced Social Media and PR Measurement and Evaluation).

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