Online PR Presentation from Search Marketing World 2008
Here are the notes to help make sense out of the slides.
My name is Eoin Kennedy and I am an Associate Director of Slattery Communications and a director of the Irish Internet Association. We would fall into the category of a traditional PR company but we have started to grow our online offering to blend in with the regular offline campaigns that we run.
Today I will talk about the experience of growing campaigns online:
What is holding back adoption?
Some of the reasons why companies have been slow to embrace the opportunities that online presents.
What PR has to offer
Building on this I will look at how well positioned Public Relations companies are to grow their offerings online.
Why the rush?
Online PR and digital media have been around for sometime but now with the growth of broadband and some really useful tools it is moving very fast and the landscape is changing quickly.
Tools you can use now
Despite some of the things that are causing delays in adoption there *are* some things that communications people can and should engage in immediately.
What is possible?
I will then look at some of the areas where, with some investment, PR companies can begin to work the online environment.
I will then finish up by talking through some examples.
1. Fear of technology. Many PR people never really get beyond using word processors. Using audio and photo editing software needs new IT literacy skills and many do no invest. Although most software has become increasingly intuitive it still takes time to master rapidly evolving tools like blogs. Add the almost daily new applications that appear on facebook and you have a very different learning curve.
2. Exposure. PR people are very comfortable with supplying content to journalists and even happier when the journalist uses their bi-line on the article. Not all are so happy when their names appear in print. Similarly we are happy to prep and push out spokespeople but less happy being on the front lines ourselves.
3. Feedback. People rarely feedback on articles they read in the traditional media world. By the time they have found pen and paper, envelope, bought a stamp, the enthusiasm to reply has worn off. In addition written letters rarely get printed. Not so the blogging and social networking world. Instant and perhaps less thought out feedback is common. Many companies and PR people feel very uneasy about this.
4. Time. Researching, monitoring and implementing online campaigns sinks a lot of hours. Few executives in PR companies sit idly at their desk and with pressure to record billable hours means that the value of online campaigns can be over looked and seen as unproductive use of time.
5. Age profile. Most senior management in PR can be defined as digital emigrants at best. The emerging new class of younger PR excutives who have grown up in an exclusive online environment have very different skills and agility. Senior managers can feel very exposed and are sometimes negative about online PR as a result.
6. Networking. Evening events and social events have always been the feeding ground for PR executives to hand out business cards and flaunt their expertise. Building online networks from Facebook to LinkedIn means spending equal amount of hours on a PC to ensure that you are connected to the new online influentials.
7. Information Overload. I see on a daily basis busy PR executives struggling to even read the daily selection of newspapers. Add the countless blogs, twitter entries and flow of online news feeds and people stuggle to manage the information. Combine this with the huge number of user names and passwords and many just give up. Tools like FeedDemon help but are still underutilised.
8. Fear and Ignorance. One of the most negative barriers to PR companies is the lack of understanding of the power of good online campaigns. Fear can be a double edge sword – for some it causes them to dismiss the opportunities but now that critical mass has been reached in terms of numbers online and the reliance on the search engines for finding information on companies, the fear is starting to drive action. With over 1 million registered Irish users of bebo and over 127,000 new Irish users on facebook in a 9 month period last year there is a growing feeling of an emerging tsumani of online users who will want their content presented in a different way than articles in the Irish Times.
9. Definition. Traditional PR services differ hugely amongst communications companies. What one considers PR, others consider as promotion, hence the confusion in defining the job role of a public relations consultant. This gets even more confusing in the online world where the options are vast. In addition the parameters are being roughly draw up and are still vague at best. For example at a recent Ketchum Leadership conference I attended in London, one of the affiliates spoke about running campaigns on Facebook and the clear line between providing engaging content and infiltrating the community. Hiring online influentials to spread the word was seen as beyond acceptable behaviour.
The list of reasons for not fully engaging goes on but what is clear is that if PR companies do not invest in their capabilities that someone else will appear and eat their lunch. The traditional media has constricted and those who do not change will find themselves in a shrinking and competitive market.
· Content – one of the areas that PR excel in is the generation of good quality content. This is usually very use focused, clear of marketing speak and engaging. This ranges from press releases, articles, speeches, newsletter, TV notes, briefing pack etc. Unfortunately much of this is aimed squarely aimed at traditional media and much resides on servers after it printed.
· Engagement – whether its dealing with community groups, trade association, events or political entities pr campaigns aim to engage an audience. Online offers the potential to extend this level of engagement to new levels
· Debate – PR is rarely one sided and seeing both sides and making judgement call is key to good pr
· Dialogue – one of the crucial areas of PR is ensuring dialogue – either between a company and its publics and normally through the media
· Monitoring – the days of paper monitoring has gone to online key word search
· Ear to the ground – PR has always been excellent at taking the pulse of what is happening in the eco system.
Changes in the traditional media environment have been relatively slow. The biggest changes have been media going online. Now the focus of power has changed with Citizen journalism and the control has started to become a fallacy. Lets look at some of the numbers:
· Bebo claims over 1 million with 600k being a more accepted number. This is a lot of 16-24 year olds that are outside of a lot of traditional pr campaigns
· Face book is around 131K users. This grew around 127K in 9 months last year.
· Technoratti report over 112 M blogs and this is growing daily. Even if a fraction is relevant to your business it still a huge number and the search engines love then
· You Tube has over 69m videos, most of which are in the 2-5 minute category and they are emerging as the most desired medium for Digital Natives.
· We ran a viral video over Christmas which featured our staff putting themselves through torture in the name of charity and over a 2-3 week time frame we saw an increase of over 2,000 unique visitors to the site. More interesting was the number of places they visited after they watched the video.
So why else should we take notice
• The Traditional media as we know it is constricting. Titles are merging. The landscape is becoming more competitive
• Some of the Channels we previously used are now not relevant to many new target groups. The search engines are the preferred medium for information search and often the places where we placed stories do not appear in these searches.
• There is still plenty of scope for the trusted press release and photo but online users demand more Media Rich content and this is missing from the arsenal of pr companies
• Finally these demands will be met and if not by the pr industry then by a growing number of more nimble niche players and believe me Others will eat our lunch
· So what should PR companies be doing immediately. I am amazed by the number of companies who still do not post their press releases. This means that they are relatively invisible to the search engines. The search engine optimisation of press releases – ie posting them on one of the many online free news distribution services, hyperlinking keywords and optimising the words so that they are more attractive to the search engines is a must.
· Setting up a blog takes roughly five minutes if you are slow. Once the rational and logic of the blog is thought through these provide an excellent medium for putting out messaging, never mind the engagement they great. They are also highly visible to search engines.
· Photo sharing sites such as Flickr are being used more and more to present a more media rich view of an organisation from press launches or functions or creating a new use for expensive photography. Many of these sites have also incorporated social networking principles so you have the added advantage of creating new and exciting opportunities to communicate.
· The new range of applications and the networking potential of social networking sites such as facebook, myspace and bebo are excellent opportunities for interaction. The events application with facebook (although abused by some) almost replicates the event management expertise that consumes a lot of executive hours.
· Finally. The online chatter and rapid emergence of news, stories, scandal is almost instantaneous – both good and bad. We effectively monitor the newspaper and less so broadcast but how can we advise clients if we are a day late. The volume of information is endless but Google alerts and tools like Feeddemon mean we can reduce this manageable proportion and make it relevant to the people we represent.
With some extra effort
· By investing some extra resources – time and new skills the new areas that can be explored is immense. Podcasting requires some additional software and some new tools but is within the scope of pr practitioners and is a powerful medium to work our way through the clutter. Quite often we also find that in generating radio ads that bolting on a podcast when the studio time is booked is a very cost effective way of generating extra content.
· Utilising stories and pushing them wider through social bookmarking and tagging through Digg and Delicious is also possible by investing time and energy and looking for new opportunities to increase the visibility and debate about stories
· Finally you tube. Again new equipment needed and imagination but by looking into the range of tools we use there could be great scope for viral video, which can also be posted on company websites and blogs can create enriched perceptions of an organisation
One of the companies we represent is RedMere. They recently presented at CES and we ran a campaign around their attendance locally through in-depth pieces in the Sunday Business Post and the Irish Times. We also ran a more international programme through liasing with the key blogs and international online sites such as EE Times. In addition we utilised the business wire circuit to reach media that are beyond the normal scope of a Dublin based agency. Finally we also posted the release on, in this case Newswire Today. This was picked up by google within a few hours.
One of the piece of coverage we received during this campaign was a piece in Silicon Republic which we pushed further through Digg.
I mentioned the viral mail we did instead of Christmas gifts. Outside of the extra traffic it turned out to be a really good team building exercise for the company and we received more feedback from clients that we ever did from hours of picking the present that were not always appreciated. Not having to sign hundred of cards was also a relief.
Measurement is always tricky business for PR campaigns but the level of detail that logs provide give you an instant picture of how a campaign worked. This is the log from traffic on our own site. The spikes are from when we sent out the link for the viral mail.
One of our clients Bombay Sapphire ran an event with an internationally renowned design expert. We ran with our regular invites and follow up but also utilised the network that executives had on Facebook to present a more interactive and media rich experience of the event. It also acted as a great medium for post event follow up with people who attended and also a platform for feedback.
Finally Repak is a producer responsibility scheme who run recycling awareness campaign in addition to other activities. We set up a blog for them to create more flexible means of communicating than their website. A lot of the content is reworking of content that we generate through campaign we run for them and supplement other activities such as conferences and newsletters. It has also enabled us to reuse photography that we have commissioned and an outlet for podcast material.
We also organise the Repak Recycling Week that runs during the first week of October. The campaign always generated a load of column inches – last year alone we generated a huge number of newspaper clippings and broadcast interviews. We also run a school programme for them but felt that we needed to create a new level of engagement with younger recyclers. We had good contacts in bebo who were supportive of the campaign so we researched and build a bebo profile for the campaign. Bebo utilising a template model but there was load we could do once we matched the content, language and enough areas for interaction with the bebo community.
We built our own skins, put a lot of energy into widening the friends network, organised competitions, polls, a survey which we have previously build for use in print media to see how good a recycler someone was. Part of the traditional campaign featured a material per day so we mirrored this on the site with news, facts and figures on the recycling of glass, aluminium, plastic – again reworking content that we had already created. We also organised for a college to Bling Bring banks that we positioned around Dublin (Grafton Street and other areas). One of the bring banks was themed around Tetras and the students generated a video simulating the Blinging process frame by frame. We hosted this and we also hosted the ad that Repak generated during for the week.
So how did we get on.
• 11,000 visitors over about 3-4 weeks.
• 41 Entries to our competition. Some of the entries were pretty elaborate and you can play back how they drew them
• Over 760 Friends which is now around 900
• 200 Comments – some of which were one liners but some were queries, some were supportive
• 307 Quizzes taken
• Over 500 Polls
• International hits – accidental but showed the international interest
• Over 100 Views video
• Unsolicited endorsement on an independent site praising the profile
• 10 Entries on Blog
• Media Coverage through national media
So in summary online pr has come of age thanks to broadband penetration, the dominance of search engines and new online tools. The critical mass is now there to warrant investment. PR is well positioned to use these tools once we can over the mental and skills barriers.