The IPA’s Bellwether report provides a much more positive outlook for marketers; at last forecasting the increase in spend that we have been waiting for since business confidence slowly started returning at the beginning of last year. The survey found 27% of the panel registered an upward revision of marketing budgets, with 43% of marketing executives growing more confident about the industry’s financial prospects.
There is, however, some divergence across the marketing spend categories. It’s probably no surprise that digital marketing is the main beneficiary of the upward revision, with search, content and mobile marketing being cited prominently by survey respondents. However, what does strike me as something of a paradox is the most negative fall in marketing spend occurs in PR (falling from -1.7% in Q3 to -2.8% at the end of 2013) at a time when PR and search, as disciplines, are so obviously intertwined.
Perhaps it’s the fact that SEO and PR are still being offered as separate services, and that many PR agencies ‘just do PR’? Or perhaps it’s the fact that PR and search are combined with the objective of ultimately driving more traffic to a website – which is an SEO objective, whereas traditional PR is more about raising awareness of a brand or business?
What is clear is that as Google continues to refine it’s ranking algorithm to weed out spam results and provide users with the most relevant results to their search queries – inbound links from authoritative, trusted and relevant sources are more important than ever. There are no shortcuts any more – SEO specialists have had to adopt PR practises in order to improve the quality and relevance of external links pointing to their client’s websites, in order to deliver results.
This is why we are seeing specialist SEO agencies carrying out more and more PR work – gaining coverage from high authority websites, finding angles for content marketing initiatives and conducting influencer outreach. Indeed all of the things that PR agencies do naturally but perhaps without realising the SEO value of their work. So whilst SEO agencies are getting much better at talking PR, PR agencies seem to be playing catch up, or worse, not moving forward at all.
This could be because the less PR-like aspects of onsite SEO is very technical and requires time and specialist expertise. However, apart from the onsite SEO audit, the inputs and outcomes of a successful SEO campaign look very similar to the inputs and outcomes of a successful PR campaign.
Within agencies, SEO and PR have to join forces as a holistic marketing discipline. In the same way, clients need to be looking for an integrated approach from agencies with both areas of expertise in order to get the most from their budget. That means agencies with SEO and PR teams that talk to each other and work together. Ultimately, clients need a PR service from their agency which demonstrates a solid understanding of SEO – an understanding that can extract every ounce of ranking power from the client’s content and coverage.
Otherwise, we seem to have the first sign that specialist agencies without this integrated approach are going to get left behind.
About the author
Tim Beaver is Digital Planner at WAA. An authoritative and personable digital professional with top agency experience working in strategic planning, project management and account direction; with a solid track record in business development at a corporate level. Specialties: Digital strategy; social media monitoring, analysis and strategy; SEO; web analytics; CMS systems, e-commerce, digital development processes, accessibility, usability, web based application development and rich media creation.
About the company
A Sunday Times Top 100 company to work for, WAA has been using its Business Creativity philosophy for 28 years to help clients out-think and out-perform the competition without having to out-spend them. Combining commercial acumen and insight with creative flair and craft to deliver innovative new business solutions, compelling content and clever integrated communication campaigns. WAA works across every channel; digital, TV, PR, print, social media, DM, sales promotion – nationally and globally for clients that include 3M, Virgin Active, City & Guilds, B&Q and Halfords.