David Hargreaves

Reflections on the reinvention of the PR industry

The Data Imperative: Will PR Win or Lose the Battle for Data?

pie-chart 

 

It was interesting to see some of the latest findings in a study entitled 2009 Digital Readiness Report, released by iPressroom. It highlights the fact that PR is ‘leading the social media revolution inside an organization’ which is great to hear. It was also interesting to note that PR lags marketing in just two disciplines: email marketing and SEO, but leads in the disciplines of blogging, social networking, social search and micro-blogging. There is a great post on Jason Falls blog discussing the report in more detail.

I am clearly biased but I am passionate about the fact that the discipline of PR, which is routed in influence, should be the rightful owner of social media. In so doing, we can transform PR into a discipline that cuts across all departments within the organization.

However, if we are to succeed, I think there is one big obstacle we need to overcome – how we use data. If you look at the two disciplines where the PR profession is lagging marketing they are the two areas which are also driven by data. If we are to succeed it is imperative that we become masters of data and how we use data to drive campaigns.

There are lots of great companies out there which are helping to provide the industry with the tools we need to put data at the center of what we do. (I particularly liked BuddyMedia who I met last week in New York).

Yesterday I had another reminder. The ad agency of one of our clients made a grab for a part of the tactical execution of the Facebook component of a campaign. The rationale, according to them, was that they hold all the data analytics for the web site so “it makes sense.” The great skill we have as PR professionals is that we understand how to create and drive content that influences and engages people. However, that will only take us so far unless we show how we then turn that engagement into paying customers.

We are making good headway as an industry but the battle over data is still far from won. 

 

*Also posted on Bitemarks

Filed under: Communications, Marketing, North America, Public Relations, Social Media, Technology, Trends, Web Analytics, , , , , , , ,

Building a Social Media Strategy

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been involved in a number of sessions with clients as part of helping them define their social media strategy. My sense is that we are now beyond the let’s experiment stage and have now moved into the ‘we need to join up all these experiments’ phase. There are a number of fundamental questions that I think we need to answer as part of determining a strategy (I am not going to go into them all here), but I think a big question facing many brands is how to strike the balance between engaging with their target audience on their site or on a third party site or on a property that is a hybrid of the two. In other words:

  1. What is the role of www.client.com as a destination within the social media strategy?
  2. To what extent should we be engaging existing audiences on third-party properties?
  3. Is there a role for a loosely coupled digital property within the social media strategy?

There is clearly no right and wrong answer because it depends on a whole host of factors including whether you are trying to attract new customers or build a deeper relationship and loyalty with existing customers. One thing is sure, ‘if you build it they won’t necessarily come!’ How you then aggregate an audience around a destination that is the focus for the conversation is, in my view, the key to success.

It is interesting to look at different approaches. Symantec has created a real thought leadership position as an expert in the security space by publishing security threat data on Symantec.com. As a market leader, it has the brand authority to host this on its own branded property, the content of which is then picked up elsewhere.

Kaspersky, on the other hand, a brand less known in the space, has recently launched www.threatpost.com, a ‘loosely-coupled’ media property. Kaspersky has recruited a couple of journalists to create a security news aggregation site as part of building itself up as an authority on security issues. In addition to this being a destination in its own right, something like this will have a massive impact on natural search providing a huge amount of ‘Google juice’. The launch of www.threatpost.com covered by ZDnet and also in Business Week. A sign of the times that “Company x launches ‘marketing initiative’” makes it into the mainstream media as a media property in its own right.

I must confess I struggled to find a great example in the security industry of a brand having really engaged with a third party community in a powerful way (all examples welcome – I even went to my trusty list from Peter Kim). However one great example of an existing third-party community where brands can engage is www.spiceworks.com (a community of over 500,000 IT professionals in the SME space). A number of Bite clients including AMD are heavily involved in this. A classic case of fishing where the audience swims.

While there is no right and wrong approach I think as long as you are clear about the role you are asking each social media and indeed broader communications channel to play as part of the broader marketing mix, it becomes a lot easier to think about how you join up all the existing experiments.

Filed under: Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , ,

Has Social Media Reached A Tipping Point?

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of reports that have come out which point to the fact that no marketer, regardless of sector, can ignore the reach and level of engagement that social media offers brands. I am not sure what the specific scientific measure of a Tipping Point is, but social media certainly feels like it has got there.

Firstly, Nielsen came out with a report covered in Brandweek which confirmed that 65% of Internet users actively use email compared to 85% of Internet users who are active in social networks (this compares to 86% for search—the originally big daddy of the Internet). This does pose questions about the future of email and its role but that’s a separate subject all together.

While 85% is a high penetration, the big question for marketers is ‘what are they doing on these networks and in these communities?’ As someone who spends a good proportion of time marketing B2B brands, a recent Forrester report confirmed the importance of social networks and the broader social media landscape as part of the B2B decision making process. 69% of the sample of B2B buyers said that they were viewing blogs, watching user generated video, and participating in other social media for business purposes. A staggering 43% of the sample were not just ‘spectators’ but were ‘creators’ of content.

The data doesn’t lie. Social media is now mainstream regardless of whether you are trying to reach a B2B or B2C audience.

If we look at how brands should be using this, now mainstream channel, to reach their audience, I saw some interesting data on Scott Monty’s blog. It shows that 81% of the Gen Y audience think advertising in social media networks is irrelevant. Again, extrapolating is a dangerous game but would it be much different for a broader audience whether B2B or B2C?

There are three things I take away from this latest research:

  1. No brand can ignore social media. Not surprising, but certainly in the world of B2B, there are a lot of companies that still don’t think it is mainstream. It is.
  2. If you want to reach people through these channels, you need to think about the rewards people get from interacting with you. They need to get a sense that they are getting privileged access to information, or get an offer they can’t get anywhere else. Advertising is irrelevant.
  3. Brands need to mobilize their ambassadors or ‘creators’ to publish and propagate content on their behalf.

Filed under: Social Media, , ,

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