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PR: The saviour of paid search?


An interesting article appeared recently on Advertising Age site which suggests that paid search will become an increasingly important medium for PR practitioners as they seek to influence consumer conversations. The piece is written by a PR consultancy using a client case study to illustrate its point.

Central to the argument is that the traditional distinction between PR and advertising is blurring. Why? Well search has changed the way we access information. And, the article suggests that this means PR needs to become a purchaser of paid search in order to reach consumers. For certain activities such as product recall, crisis management, etc then this is an increasingly useful means of getting the message distributed.

However, the post suggests that this is likely to usher in a new era or in their words “just as search marketing has the power to transform PR, PR has the power to transform search marketing elevating it to more than paid, commercial messages.”

There are several elements to this that I have an issue with. Firstly, the message is still commercial. Leaving aside the creative limitations on paid ads, a PR campaign is still a brand message designed to steer visitors to a destination which still communicates a brand point of view.  It also assumes a very one-sided a approach to dealing with client issues online.

By extolling the virtues of PPC it almost absolves PR of the need to think more creatively about digital campaigns. In this new world will paid search could almost be the channel of last resort for PR practitioners? If other campaign routes fail, simply stick up some paid media instead…What about the importance of social media and other methods of trying to engage with dialogues with consumers?

In fact the article really shows PR’s big challenge and that’s how to deliver successful solutions in the digital age. Online PR is a wholly different beast to its traditional counterpart and the challenges are complicated by the way in which consumers use the Web. First and foremost PR needs to recognise this complexity. Paid search is merely one possible tool that PR can use as are natural search, social media, email, etc.

The real innovations in PR are coming from dynamic agencies that combine PR skills with the technical knowledge of the Web and consumer insight. They understand how the internet works, how conversations take place online, how a brand should get involved and the need to monitor their clients’ reputations online. On the basis of this article, it’s clear that not all the big PR agencies get the Web.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Natalie Avalos permalink
    17/07/2009 6:36 am

    I completely agree that true PR innovation is coming from those firms who understand the integration of technology and strategic brand management. Right now, the real challenge is getting the CEO or CFO to understand the value that this new media convergence brings. The firms that understand this value and can quantify it will continue to flourish, while those who decline to adapt risk falling by the wayside. Thank you for the great post!

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