creative engineer

Are PR Engineers The Next ‘Thing’?

on March 18 | in Agencies, Culture, Data & Analytics | by | with 4 Comments

Aarti Shah (139 Posts)


There are a few sayings that have been making the Silicon Valley rounds for a while now, like: “a data scientist is a statistician who lives in San Francisco” or  “a growth hacker is a marketer who lives in San Francisco.”

With evangelists and storytellers on the rise, there’s certainly a degree of styling job titles against market and cultural forces. But in some cases, as positions fall away, evolve and emerge coining a new moniker for a role seems reasonable.

For instance, the PR industry has long grappled with being defined solely by media relations – even though most agencies have services far beyond this. Agencies are now bringing data scientists and content managers into the fold to reiterate this diversification.

But there’s been some backlash, arguing that PR has become paralyzed by the false choice of either bringing statisticians on or shying away from data altogether.

“[Analytics requires] being able to get through all of the engineering speak and get to what’s really being said,” Facebook’s Mike Buckley said at the In2 Innovation Summit.

Taking a new twist on this, AirPR a match-making and measurement platform for the industry, is introducing the PR engineer to its organization.

“The most outstanding thing to note is that this person is required to have a certain level of data literacy in order to really be able to apply data findings in order to make better decisions around brand communications,” says Rebekah Iliff, chief strategy officer at AirPR. A/B testing startup Optimizely also uses this term for its PR manager Helen Phung.

Would the PR engineer moniker engage folks with the industry who previously didn’t see a role for them? Does it more accurately capture the planning, creation, management and analysis that we expect from some crop of PR professionals? Or is it our industry’s equivalent of a growth hacker?

Photo credit: Brett Jordan

  • Rebekah Iliff

    Thanks for the great write-up Aarti! Wanted to throw this out there too, for more clarity around how we see our PR Engineer’s (Leta Soza) role @AirPR, and how she contributes in a very concrete way.

    PR Engineer Role:

    1. Analyzes all outgoing communications (earned, owned, bought) to ensure that messages are aligned with organization’s business objectives

    2. Develops a deep understanding of the market and customer needs using data

    3. Applies analytic aptitude to spot patterns and develops market-based product strategies based on those patterns

    4. Looks at internal data and applies it to optimize around how and where the company tells its story

    5. Creates and circulates relevant, educational content

    6. Develops customer relationships and builds community

    7. Is a brand champion capable of speaking to core competencies, ethos, and the innovative solutions offered

    8. Exercises design skills applicable to social content, marketing collateral and business development tools

    9. Contributes to product innovation

    The most outstanding thing to note is that this person is required to have a certain level of data literacy in order to really be able to apply data findings; then make better decisions around brand communications.

    Today, this “role” doesn’t really exist per se, because this is more of a hybrid that has become relevant somewhat recently. For the PR industry at large, data literacy is quickly becoming a core competency. Small and large agencies alike need to “engineer” organizational structure and hiring with this in mind.

    • Peter Hehir

      You pose a simple question, so here’s a simple answer No – at least, not if the industry has got any sense. It’s a daft idea and opens us up to further ridicule. The word you are seeking is ” Planning ” – manager or director. The Ad industry had used it for maybe 20 years after Boase Massimi and Pollitt (BMP) pioneered planning principles, before my old company Countrywide Communications hired Paul Miller as the UK”s (probably the world’s) first Planning Director within the Pr industry in the late Eighties. He did all the things Ms Iliff lists ( but would never have used such woolly jargon) and transformed our business. It was no coincidence that we won Consultancy of the Year three times in four years once we got the hang of predicting and measuring our efforts properly.

      A couple of things while I am here – Pr companies are not agencies – advertising firms were called agencies because they acted as agents between client and media (strangely, getting paid via media commissions and not the client most of the time). I know “consultancies” is a longer and therefore more inconvenient word, but we don’t have to worry about single column headings so much these days).
      And “outgoing communications” for goodness sake!

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