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The GOOG threat to Traditional PR

Tom pick-up on some comments I made to him at a recent event on the impact Online Advertising and SEO is having on PR.

I ran into Andy Lark, earlier this week. Andy used to be corporate comms chief at Sun Microsystems. He now spends most of his time as Chief Marketing Officer at LogLogic, a fast growing enterprise software company. LogLogic, like many other startups, uses a PR agency to help get its message out to potential customers. Andy told me that he recently noticed that he was starting to spend more money on buying Google adwords than on PR.

And when push comes to shove, I know where most cmpanies will put their money. You can pin a ROI on GOOG adwords that you can’t with PR This is a very significant crossover point. It represents one of the many threats to traditional PR. And there are many PR agencies that only understand the old approach, no matter what they say about new/social media. There is a disconnect in the PR world that is going to hit that industry hard. …. Additional info: Andy Lark’s Blog. SVW: Andy Lark agrees…blogging is disrupting PR.

I sat with some other start-up CMOs recently and we did some math together. Sometime late last year our SEO and Google budgets started exceeding our PR budgets by significant amounts. What does this mean for PR?

First, total marketing budgets aren’t increasing to accomodate this. So, the money has to come from somewhere.

Like the other CMOs I’m being forced to reallocate budgets. First thing cut – any tradeshows without clear ROI. Then it gets tight. PR, more than ever, is going to have to work harder to show ROI but that isn’t where the change stops. PR needs to be engaged in driving content into the middle of this revolution. A focus on awareness needs to be paired with a focus on appearance (a client’s presence across the web).

This is bottom-up change. It will be a while before the big companies and big agencies feel it. But start-ups and the agencies that serve them are in the middle of this revolution right now.

More than anything, this is an opportunity for PR professionals (internal and external) to become part of a sea change in marketing.

3 Responses

  1. By Kevin on February 9th, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I don’t think this is a revolution of any sorts, I think what it means that public relations specialists need to recognize that they are in the industry of communication strategies and that the internet has grown to become a significant portion of the targeted audience.

    This doesn’t mean that PR should be competing with company funds to increase website hits. It justifies that PR strategists need to expand the breadth and depth of their communication strategies, with a heavy emphasis on the online market. Inclusive of that strategy would be the tools to increase online prominence and exposure, so that the PR firm is not only responsible for the entirety of the communication strategy, but it also provides resolve to budget allocations. SEO can be a one time thing or the latest trend, but the comprehensive realm of public relations will be at the side of businesses for the indefinite future.

  2. By Andy Lark on February 9th, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Good thoughts Kevin. I’d say we’re in the middle of a very significant revolution that all but a few PR people understand fully. SEO is just one element. In the larger company I agree the PR will always have a seat at the table and be part of the mix. I don’t agree that this is a certainty in the medium sized Enterprise. Sure, it will be there. How much is invested in it though is an entirely different matter.

    The important point you make is that PR is in the business of communications strategies. PR practitioners need to view SEO as a critical component in that strategy.

  3. By John Berard on February 13th, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Try this: public relations is giving way to mediation. The agency’s role in the future will not be to negotiate with third-parties on behalf of a client, but to mediate — moderate — its discusssion with customers, employees, partners, suppliers, regulators and the rest directly.

    Every company is a media company in the current day and every agency needs to be fluent in the technologies and vocabulary of direct contact.

    Agencies will have to develop skills and insight at every point of contact — customer service, sales & marketing, point-of-sale, online and off-line. If brands are really going to be in the hands of customers, then agencies selling brand support ought to be fluent in what matters to those people.

    The best agencies have, in fact, disintermediated the legacy players. Or they should be planning to…

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