I recently told some old PR agency colleagues over dinner that I was studying for Google’s digital marketing qualification: “And you’re paying for that yourself?” they asked incredulously. To me, being able to connect deep experience of media relations with a detailed understanding of online marketing was a no-brainer – but clearly not everybody feels this way.
For the record, I think that PR has little future as a stand-alone discipline, divorced from the digital world. But that is not a threat to PR but an opportunity. PRs with insufficient experience of the digital world can easily assume that they belong in different worlds (and vice versa, by the way – there is little discussion of the role of PR in the Brave New [digital] World that Google inhabits), but I beg to differ.
The digerati are looking to SEO/SEM (Search Engine Optimization/Marketing) to drive traffic to their web sites – and of course keyword research and properly crafted landing pages are crucial here. But Google also pays attention to the number and quality of the sites that are linking to your content – these backlinks are an important determinant in determining your overall quality score. So, seeding content on credible editorial sites is critical - and there are few disciplines better able to do this than PR.
This creates a virtual circle in which PR – providing it is properly aligned with the SEO strategy – plays a key part: SEO strategy influences content creation (see my Content Paradox blog post for more information on this) which is seeded with key publications through the PR process to create the backlinks that improve SEO performance.
So, I see a critical role for PR in the digital landscape but this is a case that can only be made by PRs that are sufficiently au fait with the online world to do so.
And that’s why I’m paying for that myself.