The Global CommTech Report is a global research project by Purposeful Relations in partnership with PRovoke Media.

More than 300 PR and communications professionals around the world were surveyed to find out their attitudes towards technology and how they were using it.

The results paint a mixed picture. The good news is that more than half (56%) of PR professionals globally believe they are extremely competent or competent in their use of communications technology. The bad news is despite their self-belief many are not using even quite basic technology in their work.

Four in 10 of PR practitioners complete business critical processes such as project management (41%) or contact relationship management (39%) using spreadsheets.

Despite many PR professionals claiming to embrace technology lots of time is being wasted on mundane low-level activity that could be spent on strategy, relationships, creativity or other high value activity.

But there are lots of positive findings.

The report reveals that communications technology is one of the highest investment priorities for comms teams, ranked first by agencies (34%) and second by in-house (28%).

Within this, data and analytics (60%) is the main area of investment, followed by content creation and management (53%) and AI (39%).

And it looks as though the message that community and Community Based Marketing (CBM) is a sector-changing opportunity has got through to communications professionals globally.

Content and Community are the biggest areas of opportunity for Public Relations

Survey respondents listed which they thought provided the greatest opportunities for public relations and communications.

Content creation was top and cited by 78% of respondents with online communities second on 67%. A slightly higher percentage of in-house respondents (70%) see online communities as an opportunity compared to 65% of agency respondents.

Despite the constant predictions of the decline of mainstream media, 63% of respondents still believe that media relations is an opportunity.

A screenshot of a graph from the Global CommTech Report 2023
67% of communications professionals believe online communities are a big opportunity for Public Relations - source: GLOBAL COMMTECH REPORT 2023/Purposeful Relations

Data, analytics and measurement are the key to unlocking opportunities for PR

When questioned about skills that public relations and communications practitioners of the future need then the most important is seen as measurement and evaluation (78%), followed by data science and analytics (71%), and behavioural insights (69%).

Anne Gregory, professor emeritus of corporate communications at the University of Huddersfield said: “The increase in the use of data and analytics indicates a move towards more informed decision-making and more accountability in evaluation.

“Given our role as the ‘holder of the ring’ in relationships with stakeholders and of organisational reputation, this is to be welcomed. The more we know about stakeholders and how to engage with them and the more we can track their developing relationship with our organisations, the more central our role becomes in strategy and governance. The challenge then becomes: are we equipped to step up to that plate?”

I’m both dismayed and heartened by the results.

I’m dismayed that it confirmed my anecdotal experience which is that PR and communications people aren’t great at embracing and using technology to do their jobs better. I’m heartened in that some of the areas identified as important or opportunities are the right ones.

Data, analytics and measurement are the key to unlock opportunities for PR and communications. Too often PR is obsessed with the notion of proving its value. In reality the real value of data and measurement is so PR can do a better job. If we focus on using data and measurement to plan better and to improve what we do, then the results or value are better by default.

I’m also enthused that 67% recognise that online communities are a big opportunity.

In 2022 McKinsey predicted that online communities would be the ‘big idea’ in marketing for the 2020s, so it’s heartening to see respondents recognise this.

The big test will be how many of them are proactive in doing something about it.

At Purposeful Relations we’ve created our own Comms Leaders community on Guild and advise clients on community strategy and management, but we’ve only seen a small number of PR agencies talking about it.

About the research

The Global CommTech Report is published by Purposeful Relations, in partnership with PRovoke Media. It is supported by ICCO (International Communication Consultants Organisation), CIPR, AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication), WCFA (World Communication Forum Association), NewsWhip, Presspage and PRophet.

The research was conducted by Stickybeak between December 2022 and March 2023, and surveyed 329 public relations and communications professionals from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America.

The report includes 10 action points for in-house and PR agency teams to improve their use of communications technology, data and analytics.

About the author

Stuart Bruce, PR Futurist, co-founder, Purposeful Relations
Stuart Bruce, PR Futurist, co-founder, Purposeful Relations

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