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.