Blaze a trail with online PR

21 Dec 2008

Online PR is a growing component in many companies’ marketing arsenal, and those firms that choose to ignore their online profile do so at their peril.

Though more than half of marketing professionals in Ireland and the UK are turning online for some element of their PR activities, still less than 5pc of their PR budgets is allocated to digital activity, according to research by Citigate Dewe Rogerson.

Commenting on the results of the survey of more than 100 marketers, Phil Szomszor (pictured), head of digital at London-based Citigate Dewe Rogerson, urges companies to consider areas that will deliver greater reputation management value, other than just search engine optimisation and e-newsletters.

“Other key elements such as pay-per-click advertising and buzz monitoring, where you listen to what’s going on in blogs and forums, are useful. Develop blogger relations, where you treat bloggers a little like journalists by reaching out and contacting them directly. Get your message out with a company blog, appropriate social-networking engagements and your own online content, such as virals for YouTube.”

Szomszor warns companies to ignore their online profile at their peril. “Brands are being discussed online and, a lot of the time, companies are not even aware those conversations are taking place. The conversations people are having about your brands need to be the right ones, and you need to be seen to engage with those consumers.

“There are many examples of where companies have got it right, but also very wrong. For example, HSBC ran into trouble recently when it started charging students for their current accounts, and it sparked off a Facebook campaign where thousands of students were signing up to protest. The bank had to make a very embarrassing U-turn on its policy, which was widely reported in the press and online.”

Nearly two thirds (65.1pc) of respondents to the survey said they recognise the importance of online/digital PR, and believe it will be completely integrated with other corporate communications channels by 2012. “Our research shows that marketers acknowledge that online PR is something they should be doing, but in reality they are just dipping their toes in the water. Despite their understanding of its importance, marketers are not throwing resources at it just yet. Companies can learn a great deal from those brands already blazing a trail with online PR.”

Pictured: Phil Szomszor, head of digital at London-based Citigate Dewe Rogerson 

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