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Is Your PR Agency SEO & Social Media Savvy?

By TopRank Online Marketing     Public Relations, SEO, Social Media

social media readiness[Note from Lee:  The PR industry is in a state of flux with changes in the print industry, citizen journalism and the social web. Consumer behaviors with information discovery, consumption and sharing have been significantly affected by the dramatic increase in social platform usage and ease of self publishing.

Companies that rely on reaching and engaging those consumers through PR and marketing vendors and/or internal professionals need to carefully consider what skills and capabilities are needed to succeed. I've asked Adam Singer at TopRank to present his view on the matter and he's come up with the following post.]

Jason Falls recently made a smart comment about the need for Public Relations professions to be “social media ready”.  In that post, he referenced a 2009 “Digital Readiness Report” to assess the specific social media marketing skills companies are looking for in a PR vendor.

The report provides useful insight for identifying a qualified agency as an external partner in today’s competitive and increasingly digital PR landscape.

As an active practitioner in the SEO, Social Media and Digital PR field for over 6 years, TopRank wholeheartedly believes communications and marketing professionals that work on behalf of clients need an intimate knowledge of how search/social and PR intersect.  For companies that are wondering about their current marketing and PR vendors we’ve put together a 10-question assessment to get a better understanding of what skills are needed to be competitive in an increasingly digital world.

1. Are you implementing social media marketing, but not SEO?
According to the Digital Readiness Report mentioned above, social media adoption outranks organic SEO. Yet more than 82% of Internet users surveyed in “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers” (published by Tom Smith, one of the researchers of the Digital Readiness Report) stated search engines are the tools most frequently used to source information about products, brands and services. That disconnect reinforces the need for SEO as a primary “pull-based” digital marketing tactic.

2. Do your social media and SEO efforts work together?
SEO and social media have a clear intersection, and if you are practicing both, they should work together. SEO strategy infused with your social media marketing efforts can directly influence the discovery of communities and content via search engines. Additionally, social content can boost links to your website, improving search traffic and online sales. In other words, if you’re going to create it, why not optimize it? There’s a danger in treating social media and SEO as separate silos.

3. How do you measure the return on investment of your social media engagement efforts?
The multitude of conversations happening about your brand in the social web are no doubt difficult to measure. But considering the impact and influence of those conversations, thinking strategically about how to measure social interaction becomes crucial. After determining what you’re trying to achieve, you need to create the right mix of tools to measure it (standard web analytics, blog metrics, social media monitoring, etc.).

4. Is social media something you do in your spare time, or is it a core function that requires a dedicated resource?
Whether your marketing, PR or customer service department is responsible for social media efforts, or you choose to outsource, determine who owns each tactic, ensure you have the appropriate resources and provide ample training opportunities. You’ll only get out as much as you put in. Agencies can easily add “social media” to their list of capabilities, but it’s important to get examples and evidence of the agency’s own social participation.

5. How much effort is put toward managing the search and social media friendliness of your corporate website?
The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that companies’ own websites are viewed as more credible sources of information than blogs, social networks or advertising. That, combined with the positive effects that frequently updated, quality content can have on search rankings, presents a strong case for investing in content management. If your marketing strategy does not emphasize high-quality, relevant content to attract visitors to your site, you may be missing out on an excellent opportunity.

Whether its for specific company names and brands or generic terms relevant to products/services, content on company web sites provide significant opportunities for discovery by industry analysts, journalists and bloggers as well as consumers. Further enabling that content to be saved and shared with others in a social context helps that content travel and facilitates distribution to audiences “off site”, increasing exposure.

6. How strategic are the recommendations for the company blog?
The highest-ranked digital skill for large organizations, according to the Digital Readiness Report, is blogging. Those skills should include the ability to develop a strategized blog content plan based on what resonates with readers. That might include a scheduled, specific mix of posts on subjects relevant to your niche in a variety of formats. Now that every company is in effect a media company, begin to think like an editor and have an audience acquisition strategy in mind. Start to think of blogging holistically and comprehensively.

Anyone can “set up” a blog, but there’s a very big difference between setting up a blog or web site and doing so in a way that is successful for reaching business goals. Agencies should practice what they preach to clients in this area more than just about any other social web activity.

7. What is your company’s approval process for micro-blogging?
According to the Digital Readiness Report, micro-blogging has grown slightly larger than blogging (62% vs. 59%). User adoption of micro-blogging is high because it’s quick and easy. The benefit of this communication mechanism lies in its speed and agility. Are you slowing the process or short-circuiting the potential success of a micro-blogging campaign with a lengthy approval process? Or are you agile in your micro-blogging efforts? Do you have established processes that provide guidance as well as flexibility? Roles for public facing employees and how they communicate on the social web are essential.

8. Is your current PR agency effectively optimizing your news content for search and social media?
Who are your customers and with what kind of content are you engaging them?  What are their preferences for types of content and frequency of communication? Which sites do they visit, and how often?

PR departments don’t typically have control over all corporate web site content, but they do typically influence what is posted on newsrooms including: press releases, announcements, case studies, media coverage, newsletters, webinars etc.  Each piece of content or media published online can serve as an entry point to your message. It’s essential then, that your PR staff or vendor is working to help make that content visible via search and/or social channels.

9. What is your PR firm’s true core competency: traditional PR or social media and SEO?
These days, the demand for traditional PR skills is starting to dip. 18% of respondents in the Digital Readiness Reports said they have no interest whatsoever in traditional PR.  And, for the vast majority of respondents, knowledge of social networks (80%), blogging, podcasting and RSS (87%), and micro-blogging (72%) is either important or very important when it comes to PR and marking hiring.

How does your PR firm and staff measure up?  The lines are blurring in capabilities between PR and Marketing consultants. Discover the core capabilities of the agencies or consultants you work with and decide of they best match with your internal resources.

10. Have you considered hiring a social media specialist?
The Digital Readiness Report found that while 43% of large organizations are interested in hiring a social media specialist, only 23% of small to mid-sized firms are. Many organizations say they’re serious about social media and new media communication and recognize the need for it. But that requires backing it up with dedicated human resources with the appropriate knowledge and experience – or potentially outsourcing it.

What other questions should companies ask their PR firms regarding SEO and social media expertise?


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