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Rightly or wrongly, the PR industry has taken a lot of stick over the last year. Allegations that it has fallen behind in the race to ‘own’ social media may or may not be true. But, in an industry that has built itself on perceptions, there is work to be done to ensure it remains a key weapon in any marketing arsenal.

So, given the time of year, I’ve been thinking about five New Year resolutions that the PR industry should consider for 2011.

Clearly no one size will fit all. To some in the industry that are doing great work (and there are many out there, despite what you might read), these resolutions will just serve as affirmations of their work.

For others, the resolutions will hopefully act as pointers for how PR has changed/is changing and the steps they should consider taking to ensure they keep up.

1. Take a strategic approach to social

2010 was the year when social really took off from a business standpoint, with a vast number of businesses now actively involved on Twitter, Facebook and even Foursquare.

There are many agencies out there, of all shapes and sizes, that will be happy to set you up with a Twitter feed or Facebook page, but how many are giving higher-level strategic advice about how social really fits in and, crucially, how to get business returns?

With many marketers admitting they are only doing social to keep up with the competition, its time to take a more sustainable approach. PR has the ability to be at the centre of this discussion.

2. Focus on integration

Continuing on from the previous point, it has been proved time and time again that social media and digital work best when integrated across the board.

How does your social media strategy fit in with your wider web programme? How does it influence or affect your comms strategy or permeate through to other business units such as customer service?

Ensuring that all aspects of a PR and marketing programme are integrated will become even more important. And, with ‘earned media’, content creation and communication at the heart of much of this, PR is perfectly suited to take a leading role.

3. Take SEO seriously

Google remains the centre of the universe for most of us when using the web to find information. And with the continued rollout of Google’s universal search programme, PR has an even greater role to play in helping companies stand out in organic search rankings.

With all the buzz around social media, it’s easy to overlook SEO, but the returns for PR agencies and benefits for their clients are potentially greater.

4. Use digital to revolutionise measurement

Measurement has always plagued the PR industry and we finally seem to be seeing a general (if begrudging) admission that metrics such as AVE are no longer cutting the mustard. The web finally gives PRs new exciting ways to measure success.

I’m amazed that more aren’t grabbing this opportunity to really prove their worth.

5. Only give your best advice

When we only had print media and a couple of analysts to worry about, life was easier. In today’s fragmented media world, giving strategic advice is harder than ever. And it’s easy to become blinkered by the same old tactics.

PR strategy in these times involves a lot more planning. Identifying target audiences and the best media channels to reach them on is vital. Suggesting a Facebook page for every campaign because ‘it’s the thing to do’ isn’t strategic and just wont work in the long or short term.

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Published 17 January, 2011 by Danny Whatmough

Danny Whatmough is Head of Digital, EMEA Consumer at Weber Shandwick. He can be found on TwitterGoogle+  and blogs at dannywhatmough.com.

21 more posts from this author

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Ross Furlong

Ross Furlong, CEO at BlogStar

Nice summary of online PR priorities Danny. If there's one thing I'd highlight it would be pushing PR to the fore in strategic marketing discussions involving social media. The input a PR perspective can give on devising social media strategy can really drive the campaign forward in a coherent way. We're missing a trick not to offer strategic & creative social media consultancy (and charge for it). 

over 5 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

I agree with you. However, we have to earn the right to do this and, at the moment, I think many are struggling to do this, especially in the social/digital areas. Those that can (and are) will be the ones that emerge unscathed. 

over 5 years ago

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Richard Hamer

What we've noticed is there are lot of businesses that have ditched regular PR and set up their own  social media in-house, and quite often (particularly with Facebook) use it to keep in touch with their mates. But, they are only focusing on how much money they have "saved" by not using an integrated service. Crazy.

over 5 years ago

Ross Furlong

Ross Furlong, CEO at BlogStar

Yes, it's one thing saying it, another having the strategic skills to provide it and I'd agree that PR is light in this area. Social media agencies are bossing this space. On Richard's point about budget driven decision making, it is crazy. I say, convert some of the budget from PR to social media and hopefully your PR agency will know what to do with it.

over 5 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Or indeed, to go back to point 2, stop seeing them as separate silos with separate budgets. Some of the most effective campaigns are where PR, social and other earned media (SEO) work together, both strategically and tactically.

over 5 years ago

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Hugh Anderson

Great post and debate, but can I focus in on the big question that you ask brilliantly: "how many [agencies] are giving higher-level strategic advice about how social really fits in and, crucially, how to get business returns?" The second part of this in particular appears too often to be lost in a myriad of fluff and complexity. Do you have any examples of agencies that are doing this well in a simple, user-friendly way for SMB's?

over 5 years ago

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crussynus

A strange effect of narrow principles and short views that a prince possessed of every quality which procures veneration, love, and esteem; of strong parts, great wisdom, and profound learning, endued with admirable talents for government, and almost adored by his subjects, should from a nice unnecessary scruple, whereof in Europe we can have no conception, let slip an opportunity to put into his hands, that would have made him absolute master of the lives, the liberties, and the fortunes of his people. Neither do I say this with the least intention to detract from the many virtues of that excellent King, whose character I am sensible will on this account be very much lessened in the opinion of an English reader: but I take this defect among them to have risen from their ignorance, they not having hitherto reduced politics into a science, as the more acute wits of Europe have done. For I remember very well, in a discourse one day with the King, when I happened to say there were several thousand books among us written upon the art of government, it gave him (directly contrary to my intention) a very mean opinion of our understandings. He professed both to abominate and despise all mystery, refinement, and intrigue, either in a prince or a minister. He could not tell what I meant secrets of state, where an enemy or some rival nation were not in the case. He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds; to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes; with some other obvious topics, which are not worth considering. And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.

over 5 years ago

Adam Lewis

Adam Lewis, Managing Director at immediate future

Hi Danny - I agree with much of this. Good PR people are great communicators and they know how to build relationships and create a convincing message. But social media is bigger than communications and messages. It encompasses customer service, it impacts HR (what do we do about our staff tweeting?); it can drive traffic for e-commerce and allows marketers to engage and excite customers in new ways. It requires that the next-generation of PR people develop a more analytical mindset and a willingness to embrace new technology. For those in the PR industry prepared to adapt, there is an exciting future ahead of them.

over 5 years ago

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