The PR industry has already successfully expanded its brief from media relations to social media. Having won the battle for ownership of the social media strategies of some of the world’s largest companies, the PR industry is coming to claim a share of their SEO budget, too.
The industry’s pitch for this business is a strong one indeed, as we will see in just a minute, and deserves the respect due a worthy opponent.
However, this isn’t to say I would advocate adopting a siege mentality here because, who knows, one of the results of the market developing in this way may be increased opportunities for collaboration.
It’s possible the result may even be increased interest in the value of your own services as a supplier or consultant to these new PR kids on the block.
Nevertheless, forewarned is forearmed, and an understanding of the direction they’re coming from and the tools and experience they can call upon will be essential to safeguarding your position.
The skills they’ve built up over decades of developing high quality, campaign-focused content and pre-packaged news stories to snare media interest are immediately transferable to content marketing and SEO, and they know it.
Techniques used to generate news, such as consumer surveys, research-driven thought leadership or provocative opinion pieces, can also generate highly shareable content. Having acknowledged that these days their content needs to go beyond just conveying corporate or brand messaging, they’ve set about mastering the art of building-in that sought after quality of shareability.
Adept news generators, communicators and content organizers, it’s not a big leap for them to make so it’s important for SEO’s and content marketers to get to grips with these techniques and, at the very least, expand their reading list beyond the usual SEO-trade blogs to include PR industry blogs and trade press.
Related to my last point, the PR industry already enjoys a direct-line to you clients’ marketing teams and, in a lot of cases, their C-level executives. From here they can demonstrate enough of a crossover of services between SEO/content marketing and what they’re already doing to make it an easy upsell into more of their marketing budget.
This is exactly what they did with social media. The link from content like media releases, case studies and feature articles to blogs, infographics and link building activity is a straightforward one to make.
Marketing managers or directors are keenly alert to opportunities to consolidate their budgets with suppliers and the one-stop shop for these services presented by modern PR agencies appeals to this instinct.
Knowing that this relationship exists should influence your strategy of strengthening your own client relationships and lead you to consider ways to make yourself indispensable.
Most PR companies — the ones that are any good, anyway — also have an enviable list of contacts with which to place their quality content at nationals and with leading bloggers. And their media relations skills will give them a distinct advantage on this particular battlefield.
This, combined with their expertise in content development, is the foundation of their play for this particular market. The recent Hummingbird upgrade to Google’s algorithm, sharply focussed on high quality content, favours them in this respect and they’re in a position to significantly raise the bar here (more on this in a minute).
In much the same way as the PR industry is trying to broaden its interests, you may want to consider developing a strategy for building, nurturing and using a detailed media list of your own.
Google Hummingbird means that content must be generated with the audience in mind and not to game search engines — something the PR industry has been doing for decades. As the owners and gatekeepers of so much marketing content and collateral already, your clients’ PR team is now firmly in the driving seat when it comes to strategic content development.
The response here is simple, at least in terms of understanding it: if you don’t want to become the junior partner in the process you may need to up your game. When it comes to content development you’ll need to be more than a match when it comes to suggesting content ideas to garner high quality links and maximum social shares.
In the days when print and broadcast media reigned over all, PR was notoriously tricky to measure, relying on dubious metrics like advertising value equivalent (AVE) to justify its existence. Not anymore.
With the majority of communications activity now taking place online this is no longer a problem and now that they are able to demonstrate the value of what they do with cold, hard numbers (social shares and Google Analytics, for example) PR operators are growing in confidence and value.
To counter this you must always be able to demonstrate the impact on the client’s bottom-line of the work you do. Having been measuring results for longer, it could be argued that places you at an advantage in this respect but that shouldn’t make anyone complacent.
All told, the PR industry’s play for SEO and content optimisation work is real and should be taken seriously. They are in a stronger position to argue that there is a crossover of services in their favour rather than vice versa, and they’re highly motivated, too – with traditional marketing budgets under pressure, interest in all things digital means this type of work carries a strong appeal.
For this reason, you should make it your business to keep up with the industry through the PR trade as much as the SEO trade and online communities. By being alert to their pitch for your business and why and how it’s being made you can re-position yourself accordingly. It won’t be easy but, considering what is at stake and the potential rewards, it will be worth the effort.
David Jamieson is Account Manager at TopLine Communications, and integrated communications, marketing, SEO and video agency based in London.