It has been a busy few weeks, so this blog post covers a lot of ground from Internet World, to the recent NMK online PR debate and the repercussions of Volvo’s decision to hire Mindshare to handle digital PR.
As Gerry says: “Over 22,000 seats were filled in free seminars and keynote presentations. Such were the queues that probably another 8,000 were on their tippy-toes outside the theatres struggling to get a glimpse of the presenters and pick up a few words of wisdom. Interesting. Hardly what you would expect for a digital marketing event in these difficult times. After all, marketing is the first department to get cut in a recession, right?”
Right. The fact is, marketing budgets are being cut across the board – but digital is the one area to benefit. A recent survey from Forrester showed that 60pc of marketing budget holders expect to fund increases in interactive marketing expenditure by taking it away from traditional marketing techniques. And the biggest losers? Direct mail and print advertising (both newspapers and magazines).
Those PR folk who still think print coverage is more valuable than online ought to take note of this latter point – as print circulations decline and advertising revenues shrink, the amount of editorial real estate available becomes smaller – and as media consumption patterns continue to shift in favour of digital, then the default focus on print based media relations becomes even harder to justify.
So the reasons for the crowds at the Internet World show are not that difficult to explain. However, as Gerry Brown points out: ”Some might argue that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and many left being converted to the idea that digital marketing is ‘the next big thing’ without really understanding the how, when, where or how.”
Which neatly brings me on to the recent NMK event, which debated the question “What Happens To Online PR?” Numerous people have already blogged about the proceedings – however, the thing that struck me most about the evening was that out of the 85 or so attendees, there were – at most – two client side representatives. For me, this is the key question: what do clients actually make of the whole online/digital/social media PR situation?
This has apparently set “alarm bells ringing” at PR firms up and down the land claims PR Week. So should PR firms be worried? Yes and no. In my experience, media buying agencies have access to much better data on which to base their approach (certainly in the FMCG arena, and increasingly in business to business) – I also think their planning skills are generally better than PR firms (perhaps because they are using better data?). Does that mean that all online PR work should go to media buying firms? No. But Volvo’s decision does give an insight into the kinds of skills, expertise and assets that clients value. And it is up to PR firms to realign their skillsets and resources around what clients really value. (Having spent a week in New York, the phrase “digital land grab” seems to be one of the most overused on both sides of the Atlantic – but PR firms generally aren’t the ones doing the grabbing).
As Duncan Forrester, Volvo’s UK Head of PR (and the man who hired Mindshare) said: “It’s about partnering with an agency who really understand the Volvo brand, its customers as well as the online audiences and influencers. It’s also about partnering with the right agency who can deliver on the brief.”