I've been fascinated reading the discussion thread following the interview I gave PR Week last week about the future of PR agencies and SEO. Read the original interview here:
For starters, and for the record, I don't think that the days of the PR agency are numbered. As a matter of fact, as a business, we employ a retained PR agency and use a number of other agencies on an adhoc basis. However, I do believe that marketing agencies have probably done a better job of adapting to today's competitive environment than many, but not all, PR agencies have.
When Volvo decided to move into this area, it did so with eyes open and on the back of my previous experience as the UK motor industry's first and only New Media PR Manager for BMW and MINI. And this is not about letting the chosen agency set sail with your brand and steering in whichever direction they see fit. It's about partnering with an agency who really understand the Volvo brand, its customers as well as the online audiences and influencers. It's also about partnering with the right agency who can deliver on the brief.
And I do believe, also for the record, that social media PR can play a key part in a SEO strategy. Yes, digital PR has a role to play in influencing online audiences and shaping brands as it has always done in the traditional world but ultimately, all online PR activity should be geared towards driving customers to our own website. And, at the end of the day, selling cars – after all, that's what we're all here to do. The days of long lunches and the vast MP-style expense budgets in the PR industry went a long time ago and now, more than ever, PRs need to justify what they are doing and why they are doing it.
So, if SEO and driving consumers to your website is a large part of the goal, but you also need to execute a social media strategy, what do you do? Employ a PR agency and hope they'll deliver on the SEO brief too? Not us, we've decided to employ an experienced SEO agency who, for the record too, also have a great deal of experience in creating and managing social media PR strategies alongside the in-house team to make sure the off-line and on-line activities complement one another.
This decision may have caused debate, but debate is good. We live in a world of flux where very few decisions are simple anymore and there are more and more grey areas opening up. This one, in particular, highlights the possible gap between a Marketing and PR function, and we need to ensure that nothing falls between the slats. That's why we believe that a joined up approach, working in close partnership with all stakeholders to ensure that everybody delivers exactly to the brief, is the right way to proceed. You make your own choice as to whether you think it's the right thing to do.
But does this mark the end of the PR agency as we know it. No, just companies breaking down the barriers that have traditionally existed to make the most of the resources that they have available to them.