(This post first appeared on The Conversation)
Google’s announcement of Search Plus Your World on Tuesday this week certainly got the digerati talking.
Initially, reaction was quite positive. The idea that Google was explicitly acknowledging social signals as a ranking factor and giving people the opportunity to view either personalised or “objective” results was seen as good.
But it didn’t take long for dissenting questions to be raised.
You know something is up when Danny Sullivan (a real SEO expert and long time Google defender) starts talking about “alarm bells”. As he puts it: “What the hell are you doing, Google?”
But more to the point, what has all this got to do with PR?
As I’ve been saying for some time, search and social media are becoming ever more entangled. Indeed PR, search and social media are combining in ways we are only just beginning to discern. This latest Google announcement merely adds fuel to that fire. The long term implications for PR relate to skills. Now more than ever, the modern PR pro needs to develop additional strings to their bow beyond the traditional smarts of writing and press handling.
As Google web analytics expert Avanash Kaushik says in his latest post, “one trick ponies are going to be a liability”. In other words, 100pc specialisation is no longer a route to success. He talks about a 70/30 ratio: “At one time, it was okay to be 100% good at one thing, and only one thing. But today companies with people who are 70% magnificent at one thing and have filled the remaining 30% with being good at everything in the periphery of their jobs will rule this world.”
Or as E-Consultancy recently put it, there is a massive demand for (and short supply of) T-Shaped Individuals: “Within the context of digital marketing, T-shaped people can be interpreted as those staff who have a strong, vertical digital skill, but have either a breadth of experience outside of this vertical area or at least a useful level of understanding and empathy with other vertical digital channels and notably with traditional marketing practice and techniques.”
For PR, that means broadening one’s skill set to encompass search and social media expertise at the very least.
And the CIPR has recognised this. There are a whole host of training workshops and webinars lined up in 2012 covering these topics from a PR perspective – from complete beginner through intermediate and advanced. Wherever you sit on the spectrum, I’d strongly urge you to have a look at what the CIPR has to offer these areas.
It may be one of the best investments you make this year.