Team Wizikey

Written by Team Wizikey

September 20, 2023

“Embrace the evolving PR landscape, seize digital and data opportunities”-Craig McGill from 8×8

In this episode of DCC, we talk to Craig McGill, a PR expert with a journalism background and a decade of experience working with different industries. He delves into the evolution of PR, emphasizing the role of data-driven strategies and the transformative impact of AI on the industry. His insights offer a compelling perspective on […]

“Embrace the evolving PR landscape, seize digital and data opportunities”-Craig McGill from 8×8

In this episode of DCC, we talk to Craig McGill, a PR expert with a journalism background and a decade of experience working with different industries. He delves into the evolution of PR, emphasizing the role of data-driven strategies and the transformative impact of AI on the industry. His insights offer a compelling perspective on the exciting opportunities and challenges in today’s PR landscape.

Introduction

0:53 Craig McGill, with a background initially rooted in journalism, embarked on his journey in the field of public relations. Over the course of a decade, he honed his skills and garnered extensive experience, collaborating with prominent UK household names such as Lloyds, TSB, BrewDog, and various construction companies. His evolution within the industry led him to recognize the transformative potential of digital communication for professionals like himself. Initially, this involved harnessing the power of websites and blogs, which eventually expanded into a diverse array of digital channels, including social media, podcasts, video content, and short-form media. What truly captured Craig’s enthusiasm was the wealth of data accessible in the digital realm, offering a far more nuanced understanding of audience engagement than the traditional print-focused metrics. This shift toward data-driven insights empowered public relations to transcend mere content creation and assume a more comprehensive management role, a transition that Craig finds both compelling and exciting.

Favourite Campaign

2:52 One of Craig McGill’s most memorable campaigns involved collaborating with a renowned international whiskey brand, a venture that left a lasting impression on him. This endeavor took place around 2010-2011, during the early days of digital marketing. Craig’s role in the campaign was partly experimental, aimed at exploring the possibilities of digital platforms for whiskey brands. By leveraging Google Analytics, which was not yet a ubiquitous tool at the time, the team gained valuable insights into how their content resonated in different global territories. This data-driven approach allowed them to fine-tune their campaign strategies to ensure that content, public relations efforts, and online engagement were optimized for specific regions. The analytics revealed the significance of tailoring content for specific markets, reinforcing the idea that localization was essential for success.

Additionally, Craig shared an intriguing anecdote from his experience in the whiskey industry. During this campaign, one of their competitor brands reached out, acknowledging that Craig’s team was responsible for directing 10% of the traffic to their website. This unexpected collaboration challenged traditional industry norms, illustrating the power of their reach and influence in the digital sphere. The outcome, whether viewed as positive or negative, depended on the overarching goals of each campaign and demonstrated the transformative potential of data-driven approaches in public relations.

Another remarkable campaign Craig discussed was the launch of Scotland’s own domain name, “.Scott.” What began as a project with potential local appeal soon revealed international interest through data analysis. By examining user preferences and tailoring content to specific regions, the team successfully captured the attention of audiences not only in Scotland but also in Canada, Germany, Australia, and the United States. This campaign underscored the invaluable role of data in crafting effective content strategies and adapting to diverse global audiences.

First Interaction with data as a savior

6:39 One of Craig McGill’s earliest encounters with the transformative power of data occurred while working with a drinks brand. This memorable experience unfolded during a time when digital tools like Sprout Social for social media monitoring and Google Analytics for web traffic measurement were gaining traction. The team had launched a high-profile campaign in Germany with high expectations for both awareness and financial success. They had meticulously crafted a diverse mix of content they believed would resonate with a broad audience.

However, this venture encountered unexpected challenges stemming from their limited understanding of local laws and customs governing promotions in Germany. Specifically, the team’s reliance on global celebrities who were popular in the United States and the UK but not well-received in Germany disrupted the campaign’s trajectory. Additionally, promotional activities offering free whiskey and drinks ran afoul of certain German marketing laws, of which they were unaware.

The situation called for rapid adjustments and mid-course corrections, which were made possible by the digital tools and data insights at their disposal. This experience reinforced Craig’s appreciation for how digital platforms and data-driven decision-making could salvage and ultimately transform a campaign that might have otherwise failed. It serves as a poignant reminder of the crucial role data plays in the success of modern marketing and public relations efforts.

Important Metrics to track

8:57 In Craig McGill’s view, metrics play an indispensable role in the daily operations of a public relations professional. Regardless of one’s position within the field, he considers certain key metrics to be of utmost importance. One such metric is the “share of voice,” particularly relevant when working with publicly traded companies. Monitoring fluctuations in share price provides crucial insights into whether any urgent actions are required from a communications perspective.

Equally significant are metrics related to media coverage. Craig emphasizes the importance of tracking the volume and tone of coverage received over the past 12 to 24 hours, aligning this with competitors, and assessing whether the topics align with the intended public discussions. Additionally, understanding the sentiment surrounding the brand is vital: Is it positive, neutral, or, hopefully not, negative?

Beyond these daily metrics, Craig advocates regular checks on website traffic and social media statistics, with longer-term data analyzed weekly or monthly, depending on campaign goals. While metrics such as call-to-actions, customer journey tracking, and video engagement are essential, Craig underscores the primary significance of three key day-to-day metrics: share of voice, sentiment analysis, and media coverage. These metrics form the foundation of effective PR strategies, offering real-time insights that guide decision-making and ensure a brand’s image and message remain on track.

Magic feature/tool

10:32 Craig McGill envisions a game-changing tool for PR and communications professionals—a predictive alert system that could provide insights like, “12 months ago, this topic was extensively covered in this industry.” For instance, it might alert users that a year ago, the housing sector was abuzz with discussions about dampness, or that eight months ago, the entertainment industry press was heavily focused on a particular actor or movie. This tool would draw upon historical data and industry trends to forecast the likelihood of such topics resurfacing in the current year.

Craig underscores the challenge PR and marketing professionals face when planning for future events and trends. While editorial calendars and forward feature planners are valuable resources, having access to a tool that proactively identifies recurring themes and events from the past year could be a game-changer. Such a tool would enable professionals to prepare content, identify suitable spokespeople, and collaborate with marketing teams to ensure products and websites are ready to accommodate potential spikes in traffic.

In essence, Craig envisions a digital crystal ball that can help PR and communications teams stay ahead of the curve, aligning their strategies with emerging trends and events. While this tool might not exist yet, Craig believes that the technology is within reach, suggesting that it could become a reality in the coming years, enhancing the predictive capabilities of PR and communications professionals.

Impact of AI on PR and Comms field

12:17  The landscape of AI in PR has experienced rapid evolution over the past 12 months, marking an exciting and transformative period in the industry. Professionals like Andrew Bruce Smith and Stephen Waddington in the UK, as well as experts like Katie King in marketing, have long advocated for the integration of AI into PR strategies and emphasized the importance of establishing ethics and governance processes. However, it wasn’t until the emergence of technologies like Chat GPT in 2022 that the field truly began to flourish.

Craig McGill perceives this moment as akin to the excitement and possibilities that surrounded the rise of social media and mobile engagement around 2010-2011. Just as the introduction of smartphones revolutionized engagement via handheld devices, AI is now generating a sense of enthusiasm within the PR community about what can be achieved. However, Craig also acknowledges the presence of potential pitfalls and challenges in this evolving landscape.

He emphasizes the need for PR and marketing professionals to actively engage in a collective learning journey, navigating the complexities and uncertainties that AI brings. It’s crucial that industry concerns, fears, and aspirations are not only recognized but also heard at the highest levels within organizations, including the C-suite. In this era of AI-driven PR, the balance between excitement for innovation and vigilance for ethical and strategic considerations is essential to harness its full potential while mitigating risks.

My two cents

13:59 Craig McGill believes that this is an exceptionally thrilling time to enter the public relations industry. Having witnessed the field reward countless individuals over the years, he recognizes that each new generation brings fresh perspectives and learnings, enriching the industry for people of all ages. With AI and data taking center stage, there are enormous opportunities for newcomers to learn and progress alongside CMOs, Chief Content Officers, and PR directors. The rise of AI somewhat levels the playing field, enabling those who grasp its potential to advance rapidly in their careers.

Craig emphasizes that many are still exploring the full potential of AI tools like Chat GPT, Mid Journey, and Jasper, often utilizing them in relatively basic ways. As individuals with the expertise to maximize these tools—often referred to as “prompt engineers”—emerge, they are likely to establish their names and careers quickly.

Addressing the perennial question of whether PR is facing obsolescence, Craig draws parallels to past concerns about the impact of blogging and SEO on the field, emphasizing that PR has consistently evolved and adapted. The emergence of AI and data presents yet another opportunity for the industry to excel, and he is confident that it will do so. Craig underscores that PR and communication professionals will always be essential, even as AI tools continue to develop. The industry’s future lies in adaptation, innovative thinking, enhanced collaboration, and the nurturing of creativity, making it an exciting and promising field for both newcomers and seasoned practitioners.

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