PR, Growth Amidst Lingering Financial Turmoil

PR, Growth Amidst Lingering Financial Turmoil

The 2008 U.S. financial crisis still feels fresh for many industries trying to rebound, but PR is one segment that has seemingly put the latest economic downturn in the past. New data from Sageworks shows that the past two years have recorded strong growth for communications companies, including public relations firms, advertising agencies and media buyers. Read more

How Good Are You At Social Media?

How Good Are You At Social Media?

Well, if you’re working in advertising, the answer may be quite different than if you’re working in PR. According to a joint study by the Worldcom Public Relations Group and the Transworld Advertising Agency Network, public relations is taking the lead in social media, even according to ad execs themselves!

When evaluating work in the social media arena, 20% of PR respondents said their profession was “innovative” and 64% said the profession was “keeping pace.” By contrast, only 12% of advertising pros said their profession was “innovative” and 40% said it was “keeping pace.” And, while an astonishing 40% of advertisers said that their own industry is “falling behind” on the social media scene, 67% of advertising respondents praised PR professionals as either “innovative” or “keeping pace” with social media. Read more

Are Products Following Me Online?!

Are Products Following Me Online?!

Recently, I was debating a purchase from CSN Stores of a hanging corner bookcase, but wasn’t entirely sure it would go with my décor, so, I decided to just put it in my shopping cart and come back to it later.

Then, the next day, as I was listening to my latest playlist on Grooveshark, there it was! That same bookcase appeared in a CSN Stores ad on the right side of my screen, along with the two rugs I had contemplated buying the week before!

What was going on?! Was it sheer coincidence, or was my PC stalking me, trying to tell me that my life would be empty without that bookcase hanging in my living room?  I decided the latter and bought the bookcase.

I’ve seen ads pop-up before for general areas of interest that I had done searches on (in this case, furniture), but I had never seen ads for specific products I had viewed. Since my startling realization that my computer was stalking me, I actually discovered that this tricky little technique is what advertising folk call personalized retargeting or remarketing. This technique isn’t new, but has certainly become more precise as of late.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who has noticed this increasingly targeted marketing strategy. A recent New York Times article highlights how a pair of shoes followed Julie Matlin around the Web after she contemplated buying them on Zappos. The same article notes that, “In the digital advertising business, this form of highly personalized marketing is being hailed as the latest breakthrough because it tries to show consumers the right ad at the right time.”

Breakthrough or not, companies will have to decide carefully if this is something they want to start implementing since there’s been concern over privacy issues. As consumers recognize these personalized retargeting ads, many are also coming to the conclusion that this means there’s some kind of commercial surveillance system watching their every move as they browse the online shopping aisles. In reality, this technique only uses cookies (a common online tracking text file – not the delicious baked good – used for things like advertising, authentication, and storing site preferences or shopping cart contents), but, nevertheless, can make consumers feel uneasy as products follow them around the Web.

It’ll be interesting to see which companies put retargeting ads in place and which opt out as the technique catches on. What do you think; is this kind of marketing creepy or effective?

Social Media, the New Voice of Advertising

Social Media, the New Voice of Advertising

Even with all the talk of Facebook’s increased privacy settings and the concern about sharing too much online, the majority of Americans still reveal personal information on social media networks. So why would it come as a surprise that these personal details include product, company, and brand preferences? If I have the most amazing sandwich ever or a really bad flight experience, I’m going to want to rant and rave to my friends. Maybe they will have had similar experiences or a better recommendation. Or maybe they’ll take my advice and go to that sandwich shop or choose a different airline.

A recent Harris Interactive Poll released last week showed that of the 2,131 U.S. adults surveyed, 34 percent use social media to broadcast their feelings, whether positive or negative, about a company, brand, or product. Of these respondents, 26 percent have been negative, 23 percent have been positive, and 19 percent have given reviews or recommendations. Similarly, as I mentioned in my post, The Social Media Revolution Continues, a video on Erik Qualman’s book Socialnomics showed 34 percent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands, myself included.

So with all these personal reviews, opinions, and recommendations out there, how much is this impacting traditional advertisements? …As it turns out, quite a lot.

The Socialnomics video revealed that 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, whereas only 14 percent trust advertisements. Yikes! This makes sense though, since Harris Interactive found that 46 percent of Americans feel they can be brutally honest on the internet, whereas traditional advertisements may seem skewed to consumers since they are paid for by the brand they are portraying.

So, it appears as though all our social media exclaiming is making more of an impact on consumers and our peers than we may have thought.

The Harris Interactive Poll showed that 45 percent of Americans who use social media say reviews from friends or people they follow on social networking websites influence them either a great deal or a fair amount. And this is precisely what people talking about products or companies want. About 38 percent say they aim to influence others when expressing their preferences online (it’s interesting to note that this includes nearly half of the younger generation, 18-34 year olds).

With 90 percent of people now skipping traditional TV ads, according to that same video, thanks to the inventions of TiVo and DVR, social media is clearly stepping up to fill that space. So, be careful the next time you tweet about a company, product, or brand – it may be getting more attention than you think!

Public Relations, Learning From Advertising

Public Relations, Learning From Advertising

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Public Relations, a Look Ahead in New Media, Veronis Suhler expects  advertising spending to drop 7.6% for 2009, and again in 2010, while public relations spending is expected to see a 9% increase.  So with advertising money coming over to public relations, maybe it’s time PR professionals took a closer look at advertising.  In a recent article, Dave Fleet lists scale, creativity, measurement, audience targeting, and message crafting as the five things PR professionals can learn from advertising.

I particularly agree with Fleet’s note about creativity and I think a lot of these points can be boiled down to creativity… at least in order to be successful at them.  Take his first point, scale, for instance.  The bigger the scale, the broader the outreach for your campaign, and, therefore, the bigger the results.  And, let’s face it, results is what it’s all about.  Mastering the smaller markets is great, but bringing your client to a bigger audience will generate bigger results, however, that takes creativity.  Creativity is where it’s at, especially now with all the overlapping of industries and media.  Social media in particular allows for a whole new way of thinking with many tactics conducive to creativity.

Creative social media tactics are also useful to glean insight on Fleet’s fourth point; audience targeting.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Let Them Come to You, Ken Lachlan, a communication studies professor at UMass Boston, commented to me that with participatory media, people can tailor who they want to hear from and what kind of information they want to receive much more easily than ever before.  They no longer have to dig through countless sources to find what they want; now, people can select what they want and get it to come straight to them.  This selection process is helpful since you’re now able to see whose following or subscribing to you and your content (or your clients’ content).  This provides immediate insight into who is interested in what you have to say and your audience research is practically done for you!

For example, if you create a Twitter account for your wireless client, but notice that many of the client’s Twitter followers are in the education sector, now you know a good industry to pitch that’s already interested in what you’re doing.  Once you know someone’s interested, it’s a lot easier to influence them.

So if these are the kinds of things public relations can learn from advertising, with a little creativity, soon advertising will be learning from us!

Public Relations, a Look Ahead in New Media

Public Relations, a Look Ahead in New Media

With the rise of social media, there has been some discussion of how the PR industry will undoubtedly change.  Will it subside as new media outlets become more easily accessible to the public?  Will it grow as people try to figure out how best to leverage their company in the face of the changing market?  I address some of these issues in my post, “Social Media for Start Ups – New Roles for PR Agencies?

According to an article in PRSA, “Ad spending now smallest piece of communications pie, forecast says; public relations expected to see 9 percent growth,” PR is on the rise while other areas of communications are dropping off.  Even though communications spend went up by 2.3 percent in 2008, according to a New York Timesarticle, “A Look Ahead at the Money in the Communications Industry“, 2009 isn’t looking as promising.

Comm Spending

For 2009, Veronis Suhler expects overall advertising spending to drop 7.6 percent, with a 1 percent decline to follow in 2010. According to the firm’s estimates, the segments where advertising will decline most rapidly this year are newspapers (down 18.7 percent); consumer magazines (down 14.8 percent); radio (down 11.7 percent); and broadcast television (down 10.1 percent).

Comm Spending Percent Change

This is surprising since advertising was once the biggest investment in the communications realm, although it does not come as a shock that newspaper and magazine ads are falling to the wayside since readers are turning more and more to other mediums (especially online), causing more viral marketing/advertising to take off.  Traditional media in general seems to be phasing out as social media is taking a firmer grasp on society.

In a recent reportForrester Research asked 114 global companies with 250 employees or more what their 2009 budget looks like for social media, even during a downturn.  Fifty-three percent indicated an INCREASE in their social media budget and 42 percent indicated they’d keep their budgets at CURRENT levels, while only a mere 5 percent indicated they’d DECREASE their social media budget.  When compared with the developments in other areas of communications spending, this is an interesting trend that can be leveraged by PR agencies for clients willing to spend in other areas to get their messaging and company name out there.

The forecasted growth for the PR industry, though, is very encouraging.  It makes sense that as the traditional media outlets are declining, companies will turn to PR agencies to learn how to make the most splash in the new media scene.  PR professionals know all the ins and outs of dealing with journalists and publications, whether it’s through newspapers and magazines or Twitter and LinkedIn.  To keep up with the industry, PR agencies need to move into the modern era of social media marketing and networking, and become the experts that companies expect them to be.

*Includes event sponsorships and marketing, ad-sponsored games, and product palcement.