May 5, 2010

Search, social marketing and PR debate

A recent article in NMA discussing the fast blurring lines between search, social and PR got us thinking. Following news that several search bods have defected to PR agencies stirred up the whole search vs. PR debate once again with the article’s focus on the need for agencies professing specialisms in either / or to consider the fact that by being so intrinsically linked to one you are effectively cutting yourself out of the other market. Whoever would have thought that online would eventually be forced to fight it out against champagne-quaffing PRs for the same clients and budgets?

Last year’s New Media Knowledge debate on the subject concluded that PR, instead of specialist online agencies, is better suited to digital communications. But really this is nothing new. Ever since the conception of grass roots marketing, PR has taken control of creating the buzz. So with the explosion of the net it wasn’t going to be long before online PR became an essential part of every client’s PR spend and the responsibility for a client’s astroturfing was laid at the PR agency’s door.

But of course what the PRs can’t generally do is the search part of this debate. Search offers amazing returns and brand-building opportunities for clients but requires careful management by experienced professionals. To cope with indexing, prevent crawling and increase prominence requires more than a PR hat, it requires a search hat. And that is the reason why it can be a universal problem finding good search guys because the demand outstrips supply – the complexity of the sector and its need for on-the-job experience means there just aren’t enough decent people to fill the number of positions. So what’s the solution?

Now we don’t profess to be re-defining the search, social and PR landscape but what we do offer, and have offered for some time now, is an integrated approach, as recommended in NMA. Instead of “buying up” PR agencies to bolster service, we have been getting on with finding and recruiting talented ‘search account managers’ and setting up a specific division within the company to accommodate this essential industry sector, while knowing that our PR department is getting on honing their online PR skills. By having a strategic partnership between our PR and digital marketing teams (in the same building) we are able to offer clients one dedicated account manager, who works across the online and offline marketing spectrum ensuring you get the best possible search, social and PR service from one port of call. This integration means that clients don’t have to make the online specialist vs. traditional agency or search vs. PR decision. Here you get it all, as many of our client projects (and awards) will testify.