Public Relations firms have the potential to be in an enviable position during this economic downturn (and beyond). An article in today’s New York Times (“Client Cutbacks Bring Agency Layoffs“) explores how the cascade of economic decline is hitting advertising firms, resulting in shrinking budgets and layoffs. The article cites less costly disciplines such as email marketing and PR as alternates. Within PR, we see a continued shift towards digital communications and social media initiatives. In fact it’s all our team does and our business isn’t slowing down at all.
As clients migrate to this realm of marketing, there is a risk of disconnect, particularly when it comes to measurement. Marketers for years have focused on ROI metrics like CPM and customer acquisition, while PR has largely evaluated success based on impressions, awareness and reputation. These tend to be less scientific and less relevant to a marketer try to move product off the shelf. But times are changing. Digital PR and effective social media strategies can do it all.
There was a great article earlier this week in Brandweek exploring why ROE (return on engagement) is the new ROI. The premise? “Talk is everything,” according to Dorothy Wetzel, author of the article. She mentions velocity (speed of message spread), virality (frequency of message pass-along) and viracity (quality of message retention) as three measurement considerations. These are good contributions to measuring awareness. But you also need to focus on quantifying action. What is the impact of your engagement? Dorothy cites Dell’s Ideastorm initiative as a progressive example and also promotes the value of direct interaction with the customer.
Digital PR increases corporate and brand visibility where people look for answers online. It is also highly actionable, enabling organizations to mobilize messages, people and movements that create more favourable business conditions. These are pretty exciting times for those organizations that are experimenting with new approaches and diversifying their presence online beyond the comfort of their own domain.