MIAMI BEACH — The PR industry continues to struggle with insights because the business model doesn’t accommodate strategic thinkers, visual designers and insights engineers, according to the "Insight Imperative" panel today at the Independent Public Relations Forum on the first day of the Global PR Summit. 

“If you want to have great strategists and insights engineers, you have to pay for them,” said Havas PR North America CEO Marian Salzman. “There’s not the motivation for them to come to our side. We have high expectations but can’t pay for them.” 

Salzman explained a three-step process for collecting insights: mining data; boiling this down to an insight; then finally, communicating this to a client for taking action. 

“This is where we fall down in PR,” Salzman said, noting that data tends to be poorly visualized within the PR industry.

The Holmes Report’s CEO Paul Holmes asked about the democratization of data — the easy accessibility of information via social media platforms.  

“There is consumer data available — we should be out there listening and engaging,” Holmes added. “This gives us insights into the real needs and desires of people. We ought to be bringing that back in.” 

“My career has been made by finding the obscure stat that I can create a story around,” Salzman added.

SPAG Asia senior manager Chandni Dalal said, like many in the  PR industry, she identifies as a communications person who learned data and analytics — rather than a data analyst.

Ballou PR CEO/founder Colette Ballou said her firm often asks to speak with its clients’ call center directors to gain insight into customer pain-points. She added, insights should be applied to the new business process, as well. 

“We walk away from any pitch that we’re more than one of three,” Ballou said. “If we are up against [two big agencies], we know [the prospect] is hoping we’ll come in with clever ideas that are £5K less. You have to gather intelligence to know where you stand.” 

When asked whether clients pushback against providing relevant data, Salzman said “Some clients don’t want senior counsel, they want transactional work. We don’t often find that clients are not willing to give us relevant data.”