Warning PR Agencies! SEO is coming to get you

In the spirit of goodwill to the online PR community I’m going to share an observation that I made at Internet World 2013 (IW2013) in April. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) agencies are quickly engulfing digital services with over-promises and already have the potential to capture the minds of your clients. Think setting up a few social media channels is enough to keep your clients happy? Think again. PR agencies need to think deeper.

IW2013 was one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever attended as it striked a good balance between thought provoking talks and exhibiting digital businesses. Apart from the tedium of wandering around Earls Court 2 whilst waiting for the next session to begin, IW2013 was good value for money – it was free.

An observation… the exhibition was dominated obliterated by SEO agencies listing services such as:

  • SEO (obviously!)
  • Reputation Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Content Creation
  • Mobile Optimisation
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • Brand Positioning
  • Advertising

PR agencies, we are in clear danger of being overthrown by brand new SEO businesses who are offering services without the backing of industry accreditation (from the CIPR or PRCA) and without nearly enough experience of managing the media. Make no mistake, digital is now the media.

If we’re honest the PR industry has been quite slow to pick up digital and still many agencies are learning the very basics. Where we, as an industry, have been slow the SEO community has been picking up the slack. Which is unfortunate because SEO agencies traditionally publish awful media releases (here’s one about IW2013).

The other big issue about SEO agencies is that some of them heavily rely upon link building tactics, large amounts of re-written content and sponsored articles which can result in websites being blacklisted by Google in the future. If you choose to work with an SEO agency then make sure you ask the right questions.

So, what am I ultimately saying?

  1. Lots of PR agencies are now digitally savvy (especially the one I work for!) and compete well with SEO agencies on the ground of in-depth media experience and integration of both traditionally and digital services. The best campaigns are always integrated.
  2. Feel free to work with an SEO agency as a third party but remember that what they do isn’t rocket science and that the PR industry has been living and breathing content for far longer than SEO agencies.
  3. If you’re a PR consultant looking to learn a few new skills then learn how to do SEO – your services are needed in the PR industry now.

A Blogging Adventure in Rotterdam #TBURTM

Over the weekend I flew the glorious colours of Keene Communications and attended the Travel Bloggers Unite (TBU) conference in Rotterdam for talks, debates, workshops and networking (Find a traveller’s guide to Rotterdam here). For the travel industry, travel bloggers form an essential part of a campaign. With their creativity and influence a PR idea can quickly become a reality in a way that traditional print journalists cannot contend with. On a traditional destination visit an ‘old school’ journo may produce a single piece of coverage but a travel blogger will publish multiple blog posts, tweets, pins, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and videos.

Bloggers are worth a PR’s time.

As part of the conference TBU partnered with Mainport Hotel (@MainportHotel), which had only opened the previous Monday, to offer delegates five star luxury but for a fraction of the cost. Each floor of the hotel featured an Aladdin’s Cave of luxury with my own personal booking being upgraded to the Waterfront Sauna room which offered a stunning view over Rotterdam’s oldest inner harbour, a private Jacuzzi and, you guessed it, a sauna!

View from my Mainport Hotel room
View from my Mainport Hotel room

Apart from the bubbly massage from the Jacuzzi, the most valuable part of attending the conference was certainly the evening networking events where it was possible to talk to the world’s most influential travel bloggers over the comfort of a few drinks.

Whoever reads this blog with a career in public relations knows that building media lists is probably one of the most boring, repetitive and soulless activities in existence. By attended TBU Rotterdam the agency probably saved itself a week’s worth of media list building. The best way to make contacts is by talking with people, step outside of your comfort zone. A particular highlight of the weekend was having a meal with @runawayjane.

A meal with @runawayjane and my colleague
A meal with @runawayjane and my colleague

Having spent the whole weekend speaking to travel bloggers I couldn’t help but cut an invisible line through the TBU delegates between marketing savvy bloggers with large audiences and smaller bloggers still working hard to raise their numbers. I don’t see audience size as a coincidence; bloggers who offered products and services, in large, have further reach online. As an industry attendee it is easy to get frustrated when coming across a highly creative original blog but then realising that sheer audience size isn’t enough to impress a travel client. Bloggers need to be marketing aware – brand yourself.

If you’re a travel blogger wanting to work with a PR agency to visit a destination then:

  1. Produce a media kit showing your blog’s latest stats and any previous case studies.
  2. Know your audience and the content they love to read.
  3. Get in touch with me.

TBU Rotterdam has been incredible and worth working for across the weekend. Amongst the 14 hours of talks and 13 hours of networking I’ve met bloggers who I hope will be great contacts but also enthusiastic digital friends.

Now that I’m back in the UK it’s time for a strong bout of sleep.

Flying back to the UK

Is Twitter Reach Credible? [VIDEO]

What happens when you put two seasoned heavy weight PR professionals in a Google Hangout together? To find out I joined a Google Hangout with Neville Hobson, the UK’s most influential PR blogger and entrepreneurial communications professional  and David Phillips, a professor of Online Public Relations at the School of Communication Lisbon.

The topic? To tackle a listener’s question of Neville Hobson’s “For Immediate Release” podcast after a case study published by the agency I work for used the metric ‘Twitter Reach’ as part of the metrics. The listener made the point that this measure is flawed on a number of counts not least that it is predicated on an old metric used in traditional media called ‘opportunities to see’ and did not reflect the actual number of people who saw the Tweets or reacted in anyway.

We all had a little debate.

PS. After this discussion I realised the questioning listener was Senior Vice President at Edelman, Dave Fleet. I’m glad to have found this out after the discussion! 

Top Tips for a Perfect Pitch

Leah Eser is one of the star students of  the winning team who conquered Grayling’s annual competitive pitch competition. Having won the pitch competition and as a soon to be Public Relations and Marketing graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University I couldn’t resist the chance to ask her to write a guest blog post… she agreed. Here is her story and her top tips for a perfect pitch. 

In public relations, pitching to a potential client is one of the most important things you will have to face in your role and is integral to the success of a PR agency. More often than not, the pitch is the one chance you get to really wow an organisation and tell them why YOU are the best agency for them.

Recently, a team made up of me, Jo Trimmings, Georgia Reilly and Chloe Wise were crowned the winners of Grayling’s annual competitive pitch competition. Working on a real-life brief from the agency, we were chosen out of 18 groups and made it into the top four groups selected to pitch in front of a panel of judges at Grayling North’s Leeds office.

Christine Emmingham, Director Grayling North, said ‘This year’s winning team were clear winners; they had the right strategic approach brought to life with workable ideas and creative flair.”

It was a fantastic achievement and provided practical skills and confidence we can all apply to future pitches and in our new roles outside of University. Using this experience, I have devised some top tips for new business pitching.

My top tips for being ‘pitch perfect’:

1. Form a team: Working as a team is essential and it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each member and choose accordingly who will work on the brief based on these. Does someone have a fantastic creative mind? Is someone a confident speaker and great with people? Or is someone better with presentation design and research? Drawing on key skills will result in a smoother process.

2. Understand the brief: During a new business pitching process, the organisation or individual will begin by sending you a brief summarising their business goals and what they want to achieve through their work with you. Take time to really read and comprehend this – greater understanding of the brief will lead to more realistic strategies and tactics that are sure to impress the client.

3. Do your research: It’s important not to use the brief as your only information throughout the pitch. Be aware of external issues that may be affecting the organisation including environmental issues and prevalent topics in the news. The beginning of your pitch should demonstrate a great understanding of the company and the environment that they operate within. Start with the client’s issues, aims, objectives and goals and then how you will achieve or solve them.

4. Be concise: Remember, the client isn’t in PR so don’t overwhelm them with fancy jargon and whole-world promises. Make sure you are addressing their needs and do this in a clear, concise way in a language they can understand. Show that you really understand their business.

5. Engage: Whilst you shouldn’t spend TOO much time working on the slides, make sure they are clean and not overloaded with text. They should give an overall summary of what you are discussing, but maintaining eye-contact with the client and adding information vocally is very important and demonstrates and encourages engagement.

6. Creativity and personality: It’s important to be practical and realistic with ideas based on the brief and the budget, but make sure you add some creative flair to really inspire the client. You might even want to do something different from a presentation. Is their brief heavily social media based? Why not create a video or interactive social media pitch?

Finally, stay human and ensure personalities shine through throughout the presentation. After all, the client wants to pick an agency they believe they can work with – so be personable and friendly!