Does the PR industry need to claim its ground?

I subscribe to a host of PR blogs - oddly, they're almost always written by men - even though we're told that women are generally more influential in social media.

One of the blogs I particularly like is that of Speed's Steven Waddington. He has the excellent habit of sharing his presentations and he's very good at putting presentations together. His "The Future of Social Media" is another one that's worth reading. I didn't hear him speak. I think, though, he's suggesting that the PR industry needs to claim Social Media from other agency types - and there's a slide on the growth on SEO.

SEO was a wasted chance for PR agencies. If the typical PR agency with the typical PR person had any strong affinity for the web 10 years ago then SEO would have been owned by PR. The evolution of SEO tales us even more in the direction of "online lobbying" for both human consideration and algorithmic re-evaluation than ever before. Hindsight, however, is a wonderful thing.

I've done this debate a lot. Yes; social media is all about conversations and PR agencies like to do the conversation thing. "Conversation" oversimplification though.

Social media - the type that brands need - is a broad and complex area. All sorts of specialists are needed. Just look at the role of "earned, owned and paid media" in social media. Paid media is used to spark interest and point attention at worthy owned media.

For example, you might use a Twitter or Facebook advert to direct people to your latest viral candidate video; that's using paid media to point out some of your owned media asset. You might also (as I hope you would) look to leverage your relationship with authority makers, key influencers and online champions by giving them a sneak peak at the same video and encouraging them to blog about it as well.

In this example we're not even digging deep into the creative and technical processes of creating the video. We're not looking at the CRM issues that come with any social media campaign. We've not talked about giving the video to affiliates in case they want to use it or whether to share the .mov file so they can overlay YouTube annotations with affiliate links and promote their own copies. We're not even discussing the best page to embed the video on and direct people too (hmm, YouTube or your page?). It certainly is easy to say a successful social media campaign draws on a wide range of skill sets.

Here's the thing; if your agency has all those skill sets in-house then you're no longer a PR agency and you're not an SEO agency either. Your agency is something else, something new.

So, does the PR agency need to claim its ground? I don't think so. I think all agencies need to recognise that the ground has moved and that all agency models need to adapt or risk making the mistake PR did ten years ago.

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