BrightonSEO: 46 billion reasons why public relations needs search

BrightonSEO, Sept 2016

To have BrightonSEO happen twice a year feels like a guilty treat. For a flagship digital event covering niche topics with practical advice, the amount of preparation must be astronomical. The BrightonSEO banner proudly proclaimed “a long way from a room above a pub”, and unlike most slogans, this one is true. I can’t remember the official numbers, but there must have been 3,500 digital marketing professionals; the Brighton Centre was packed.

When I last attended BrightonSEO earlier this year I wrote how SEO is no longer a discipline, it’s a skillset. After sitting through hours’ worth of talks and networking with highly intelligent digital professionals, it’s tempting to carry on beating the same drum. For modern public relations to be successful it’s important to have an intermediate knowledge of SEO.

I stand by that post earlier this year because it’s not just what the public relations industry should be aspiring to, but clients also request it. It’s the key to managing reputation online, driving website traffic, and ensuring products/services get heard amongst the noise online. How else will you get your website/clients noticed among 46 billion web pages?

Watching SEO agencies pitch

As I listened to talks, especially Yiğit Konur’s on keyword research (I was certain my brain was about to melt out of my ears), I couldn’t help but wonder if staple public relations skillsets that HR teams and practitioners request will remain relevant. My mind was filled with doubts over the quality of industry training available to practitioners, especially if SEO specialisms are important to generating awareness and engagement online.

A few months ago I found myself in a meeting with a financial organisation hearing from an SEO agency. For programme integration purposes they were running through their SEO pitch, a rare chance to see how their research, strategy, and tactics were formed. It was an excellent presentation that in many ways imitated the conclusions of our PR programme. The difference was that the presentation was underpinned by solid SEO research, based on facts and figures.

If you’ve ever seen an advertising agency pitch, it was like that. These are the types of programmes that can monitor return on investment so closely that companies will spend confidently, knowing the return can be tracked. It’s a very different business compared to straight forward media relations. Although as BrightonSEO reinforced again this year, the public relations industry has an opportunity to embrace basic SEO practices into client delivery. In case this isn’t obvious, that’s why I attended on behalf of Lansons – it’s an area we consult in.

BrightonSEO talks

Before not too long I’m sure a post will appear on the Lansons website about BrightonSEO but for the beautifully geeky readers of this blog, I highly recommend you check out the following three talks.

Hannah Smith: Art, virtual snowballs, and the feels (or why beer is rarely the answer)

Yiğit Konur: Keyword research in autopilot by Google Spreadsheet Macros

Paddy Moogan: Sustainable content marketing

It can feel like the public relations industry is in a constant state of reinvention, the impact of the Internet on society has accelerated this pace further. Today we’re a management discipline, we’re more than media relations, and if we claim to be about reputation management, we can’t ignore developments in the SEO industry.

#FuturePRoof: A guide for managers of agencies and communications teams

FuturePRoof book cover

The challenge of the public relations industry is to remain accessible to future generations whilst striving towards professionalism. It’s this drive for constant improvement and reinvention that has brought 40+ practitioners together to complete 39 essays, forming the second edition of #FuturePRoof.

The second edition builds on the success of the first #FuturePRoof book, launched in October 2015, which secured over 2,500 sales and downloads. The book continues the discussion around key opportunities facing public relations, from convergence and skillset to Boardroom recognition and the pace of change. Its aim is to assert public relations as a management discipline and demonstrate its value to organisational success.

The second edition of #FuturePRoof has launched at a poignant time for me as I reflect on how my own public relations career has progressed. As a digital specialist, the only form of media relations I regularly undertake is blogger relations; most of the time I help organisations become their own newspapers.

I would be called in to assist with online reputation management, digital monitoring, and programme strategies. At times I question whether the work of the PRCA or CIPR adequately represent my daily workload or training requirements, especially as flagship events such as BrightonSEO talk more directly to my skillset.

With this in mind, I’ve been reading #FuturePRoof trying to understand its target audience. At first I struggled. All of us who are involved in the online public relations community are used to calls to professionalism, ethical practices, and equality. So whilst I agreed with chapters than ran this route, it’s the same beating drum. Perhaps this will raise awareness amongst senior practitioners in the industry to change their practices, but I think this is the point; words help bring topics to light but only we can work for change.

The 39 essays that form #FuturePRoof are wide ranging. Topics include audience insight, employee advocacy, influencer relations, tools and technology, agile strategy and business models. For this reason, the book won’t just appeal to one audience, but a range of different people who form the public relations industry.

One of the most memorable chapters for me is by Sarah Stimson, Programme Director at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, on the importance of hiring smart people who have diverse socio-economic backgrounds. It doesn’t speak directly to my role, except if I’m involved in a hiring decision, but highly relevant to HR teams.

The main message weaved throughout the book is clear: Corporate investment in people and technology and an individual focus on continuous professional development (CPD) will drive the public relations industry forward.

Agency owner and CIPR President-Elect candidate Sarah Hall is #FuturePRoof’s founder and editor.

She said:

“The success of #FuturePRoof shows that public relations practitioners are aware of the direction of travel and are no longer prepared for other disciplines to eat their lunch. The public relations fight back starts here and now.

“Demand shows professionals want to close their competency gaps in order to provide strategic advice at management level.

“What’s more, the public relations industry is waking up to the fact that if we are truly guiding organisational strategy, it is common sense that other disciplines answer to us within the corporate hierarchy. I expect this narrative to get louder and louder.”

#FuturePRoof: Edition Two is dedicated to Dr Jon White, a guiding force and inspiration for the project. His book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

#FuturePRoof is available in hard copy via and on Kindle via