Is Digital Losing Out to PR?

Donna Schwartze
Donna Schwartze



digital-prPR is acquiring digital. Why isn’t digital going after PR?

Public relations agencies have gone digital, and they aren’t just digitizing public relations — they’re building full digital practices including SEO, SEM, social media, analytics, email marketing and website development.

According to a recent PRWeek article, the Interpublic Group’s PR division, which owns heavy hitter Weber Shandwick, posted an organic revenue growth of 5 percent over last year. Weber Shandwick’s CEO attributed the growth in part to “additional digital and social business.”

PR agencies are going after hard-core digital marketing business, but it doesn’t seem that the reverse is happening. With Google’s recent search changes emphasizing quality content, now more than ever, digital firms should be aggressively pursuing PR or risk losing core digital business to PR agencies.

If you’re thinking about adding PR to your digital agency, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Social is not PR. Yes, they are complementary, but they are entirely different disciplines. Don’t ask your social team to take on PR. Most aren’t qualified and probably for a good reason: they don’t want to be. PR practitioners are writers at their cores. Most social specialists are marketers. There’s a difference.

2. SEO and PR should be best buddies. PR practitioners have been writing quality content for centuries. Now, they just need to learn how to best optimize it. SEO specialists are experts at optimization. Together, they should be an unstoppable team. Encourage them to work together and learn from each other.

3. Start with your company. Don’t pitch PR to your clients if you don’t use your PR team to enhance your own company’s reputation first. Start by working on your agency’s profile, and then use that as a case study. Tell your own story of how you integrated your agency’s digital prowess with PR to effectively promote your company.

4. Don’t over-digitize PR. PR excels at getting “earned media” through traditional media outreach and pitching. Sending an optimized release over the wire is fine, but if you want quality links, let your PR team do its job at getting solid online placements. Traditional PR is still a viable commodity. Solid writing, effective media relations and core crisis communications skills will never go out of style.

5. Require PR to embrace the numbers. Traditionally, PR pros have not liked numbers, but they need to now. Encourage them to dive into data analytics, ROI, conversions, etc. If they are part of your company, they need to be as responsible for the bottom line as any other team.

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