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Why PR Needs to Wake-Up

4 03 2010

The bulk of the PR profession needs a wake up call and fast.   We have seen what is happening to print media at a regional level in the UK and US and the UK national newspaper heartland will be the next sector to feel the squeeze.  Never mind the quality of the Sunday papers, feel the width.  Not as bulky as they used to be are they?

Broadcast media is changing too, with event TV dominating schedules and more traditional content being driven by on-demand services.  The cosy relationships where PR people sit between journalists and clients trafficking ‘news’ just isn’t enough any more.

So here are five things every PR person should be thinking about.

1. Earned Media 

Media coverage achieved for clients in the digital world falls into three categories; bought, earned and owned.  ‘Bought media’ was always and is still the province of the advertising business.  ‘Earned media’ is the heartland of PR.  At one level this is just the online version of editorial but it is richer and deeper than that.  We should be collaborating to create content that will earn coverage.  Audio interviews, creative videos posted on YouTube and disseminated across the web as well as words and pictures are the collateral we must use.

 2. Owned Media 

We can create our own spaces on-line that have the capacity to become channels in their own right.  I firmly believe that PR people should blog but the concept of ‘owned media’ can extend much further.  Relevant content brings people to you.  The PR and corporate communications team at ASDA know this.  They have 18 million shoppers, mostly mums and they have used that weight to engage with the major parties during the coming general election and will be using their ‘owned’ channels to host political debate.

3. Reputation Online

“Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system. And that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”  These words were written by Clive Thompson in Wired almost three years ago. PR has always been about reputation management  and arguably a key determinant of reputation is the content on page one of a Google Search. Search therefore is very important to PR.

4. PR & SEO 

If you’re not sure what SEO is you may be in the wrong job.  The most important tool that search engine optimisation specialists have at their disposal is now the ‘press release’. They may in many cases be badly written, off message and even inaccurate but the SEO companies are all using them, with embedded links.   This is a serious threat to the PR industry as it stands.  If we don’t educate ourselves about the value of good editorial and link strategies as part of PR, we’ll be left behind.  Whatever you think about the idea of ‘social media releases’ when you send out content to the media you should embed links. 

5. Evaluation     

We’ve always claimed we don’t like rate card equivalent and then used it any way.  Well now is our chance.  So much of what is online can be measured, sorted and analysed and we need to know how to do this.  Every PR person should have a least a working knowledge of web analytics and should be able to manage tools for analysing conversations on-line.

All of these areas are natural extensions of traditional PR but that doesn’t mean we own them.  We need to stake our claim …or others will.

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