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It has been interesting to watch the varied reactions following Volvo’s decision to appoint Mindshare to manage their SEO, digital PR and social media (PR Week May 8). SEO drives the effectiveness of digital PR and vice versa – irrespective of whether this is championed by PR agencies or traditional media agencies.

The agency model is changing. The economic downturn has simply expedited the shift and it remains unclear what the new media landscape will look like. Are the niche players going to get squished by the media Goliaths gobbling up their PR budgets? Absolutely not. We are all facing the same challenges as clients consolidate their agencies and streamline budgets as every penny counts.

It’s about achieving standout. It’s about getting maximum bang from your media buck and the cross pollination of ideas; ensuring that conversational media complements above / below and through the line. It’s ensuring everything that happens offline also works online including PR.

The way people use search engines has fundamentally changed. Therefore providing clients with a comprehensive SEO offering is now very different to the services prescribed even a year ago. The same can be said of PR and social media (which by definition will remain in a period of flux; trying to define exactly what it is constrains its use).

With an estimated 87% of all internet journeys starting with a search, how can a PR campaign not include SEO? We are a nation of searchaholics. There are 40bn avid searchers in the UK alone and 4.1bn searches per month on Google (who account for approximately 90% of all searches). People used to consult friends and family before making a purchase decision; now they ask Google. Google is doctor, media owner, psychiatrist and counsellor. Love it or hate it, Google is the modern day equivalent of the Greek Oracle.

It is vital for clients to top the SE’s for a suite of keywords which will drive quality traffic and conversions on site. But it’s equally important to ensure external activity, often falling under PR's remit –  video, blogs, news etc – ranks on Google in universal search in order to increase click through rate (by as much as 240%) and brand engagement. (Not withstanding local and vertical search). In an era of media multitasking (57% of people have performed a search after watching a TV ad) it’s also vital to ensure that digital is turbo-charging the effectiveness  of TV, outdoor, press, sponsorship and so on as a key element of the marketing mix. Some clients, like Volvo, go so far as to flip the traditional marketing model on its head and put digital at its heart.

The role of SEO as part of an integrated digital PR strategy is about how we take a client brand and establish their presence in the digital space. The goal is to ensure that whatever type of search is performed - whether navigational, informational or transactional - we are responding, protecting and projecting the brand: and ultimately driving conversions on the site or footfall instore.

We all know that good PR requires effective communications, great people skills and flexible conversational techniques. It’s about connecting a brand with its audience and ensuring effective distribution of content, ethical involvement in conversations, amplifying messages, measurement and tracking.

Whether a client prefers the one agency, one roof, integrated marketing (planning and buying) model or a team of niche stakeholder players we are all fighting the same battle here; to ensure the message is effectively communicated and that the whole media budget is delivering the lowest CPA and optimal ROI.


Published 11 May, 2009 by Carolyn Watt

Carolyn Watt is Head of SEO & Digital PR at Mindshare, and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

1 more post from this author

Comments (5)



Mindshare - what do mindshare know about online pr and social media! sorry volvo great idea but use people who have some knowledge

over 7 years ago

Stella Bayles

Stella Bayles, Strategy at Propellernet

I agree with a lot of what Carolyn is saying. I've also found it interesting to read the comments left on the PR Week article. I think many PRO's are confident within their agency bubble that they are safe in the knowing they have a 'digital' division that may look after the social media side of a PR campaign - then, for them there’s nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, in my opinion I think they're wrong. I am from that background (8 years experience in PR agencies) and have been bowled over by the online strategy at my current agency . Search agencies in particular have developed and they have been bold enough to move into these new areas of online communication that doesn’t come naturally to many. The smart agencies realise they can't compete with the solid experience of PR professionals and have taken the next bold decision to recruit for these experts. Within Propellernet we have PR professionals and experts in social media, in PPC, SEO and Conversion optimisation and together we can build a complete 360 degree strategic view around our client’s customer journey. The result, and the advantage being that we can interact with customers on their online journey from awareness > consideration > commitment > experience > loyalty > advocacy. The traditional PR agencies are being left behind at the awareness stage.

over 7 years ago


Duncan Forrester

Glad to have contributed toward this lively debate, and thank you Michelle for a good precis of the point I'm trying to convey. Sorry to disappoint Bob, but irrespective of what an agency calls themselves or, to the outside world, appears to specialise in, it's all about finding somebody who understands your business, understands your customers, understands what you are asking them to do and can prove from the outset they can deliver on the objectives. And then over-achieves.  Can't ask for any more than that!! 

over 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Quite right PR guru. Now fixed - thanks for raising a flag.

over 7 years ago


Clare O'Brien

In so many respects this sounds like the old chestnut a grizzled old PR would be groaning over at this point in the (wider) debate. What happens so often in this business is the confusion between wisdom, talent and expertise... and labels and semantics.

I reckon Mindshare’s probably a really good media shop and, knowing some of their people, I don’t doubt for a moment that it isn’t bright and creative. But its stock in trade is – by and large – stats. I know I’m about to make a gross generalisation so no pops please; buying media has always been about numbers and deals and that’s why search feels so at home in the stable.  

Conversely PR agencies – to my everlasting frustration – have never fully grasped the digital nettle. Therefore their understanding of people, conversations and opinion and the ability to weave and thread the stuff with messaging as a pretty fundamental part of the mix is in danger of being overlooked.

I suspect that digital PR campaigns are far more about the platform than the nuance of the communication.

Surely what clients want (well, what we all want) is for skilled PR practice strategy AND talented digital platform management. That way, the great PR campaign can exist in an offline guise as well. I reckon a big problem with digital focused anything, is that it doesn’t embrace the completeness of the way we live.

And the problem with the trad PR agencies is that they’re so damned sniffy about digital they never truly learned how to drive it. More fool them.  So, the future we’re really looking at brings together both established skills and new talent. And yes, it’s very likely that Mindshare will be one of the winners – they’re a (big) part of WPP for heaven’s sake.

over 7 years ago

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