It is now conventional wisdom that PR needs to adopt and integrate new digital techniques into its toolkit. Rather than add to the rather dull debate about what tech PR firms ought to be doing, I thought I’d have a quick look at what they are doing in terms of promoting themselves through digital techniques. In other words, are tech and digital PR firms eating their own dog food?
Imagine you are an in-house PR manager, marketing manager or director with a technology business. You’ve decided that you want to hire a PR agency or replace an existing firm. In terms of helping you decide who to talk to, you will almost certainly conduct a web search.
In which case, what search terms would you use to help you?
Conventional wisdom suggests they will be terms like:
Technology public relations
Hi-tech public relations
Or UK variations thereof. In fact, if you were looking for a “good UK tech PR agency”, you might think that people would use that as an example search term.
Apparently not. In Sept, the search volumes on the term “good UK tech PR agency” (and other variations such as best UK software PR, etc) were virtually non existent.
Clearly potential purchasers of tech PR services don’t use these terms to find the information they want. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. As I’ve discussed previously, the majority of search terms consist of only 2 or 3 words.
Going back to the usual suspect terms such as technology PR, a number of them have comparatively high CPC (cost per click rates). In some cases, nearly £6.50 per click. And yet when you examine the search volumes, they are virtually non-existent eg “hi tech public relations” was searched for a total of 12 times last month in the UK.
Let’s look at the highest searched for terms – technology PR (UK Sept 2008 – 880) and tech PR (UK Sept 2008 – 390). Worth noting in both cases that these figures show a decline over the previous 12 month average, which might be a precursor to a drop in demand for tech PR services.
The CPC rates for both of these terms is again comparatively high. But accepting that firms are paying above average CPC for these terms, are they doing everything they can to maximise their investment? ie what happens when you click through on these PPC ads? Every single one goes through to a generic company home page. No attempt to create a dedicated landing page to give the prospect more relevant information or to guide them through the sales process. Or give them a simple call to action. Search marketing 101.
Clearly some PR firms are more savvy than others when it comes to natural search. Hat tips therefore to my old chums at Rainier PR who have clearly done some work to come top of the search rankings for the highest volume relevant search terms such as “technology PR”.
But does branding also play a part in the tech PR agency selection process? From a digital marketing perspective, we have already seen that 88pc of the most popular UK search terms are brand names. Does the UK tech PR market reflect this?
Just taking a few of the more well known tech PR brands, it looks like Lewis PR comes out at head of the pack (UK Sept 2008 – 1000). Interestingly, other well known brands such as Brands2Life have negligible volumes.
Tools such as WASP allow you to see what analytics package a web site is using to analyse its traffic eg Google Analytics, Stat Counter, Omniture, etc. It is therefore interesting to note how some agency websites don’t appear to be using any form of analytics package. Which begs the question, how can you claim any kind of digital expertise when you have no idea who visits your own site?
I can already hear the objections being raised to much of above. For example, there are clearly many ways in which a potential purchaser of tech PR services may seek information eg asking friends and peers, looking at PR Week league tables, etc. And I’ve only touched on a handful of digital activity (let’s not get into social media, LinkedIn ,etc or we’ll be here all day). In which case some may argue that I’m laying too much stress on non essential business development activities. But I can’t quite shake off the belief that at some point, the tech PR industry will have to stop just talking about “going digital” but really start putting into practice some of the now standard approaches from the digital marketing arena. Cobbler’s children, etc.
If tech PR firms are to gain a greater share of vendor budgets, then we need to not only talk the digital talk but walk the digital walk as well. And yes, it does require effort. And yes, we aren’t perfect here either and haven’t got all the answers. But we have set off on the road. We’ll keep you all posted on our progress.