A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: The similarities between PR and Search and how Hotwire helps clients to understand the purpose of each.
Leslie Campisi, Hotwire PR
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Laura Worthington, GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Laura: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Welcome to FOUND Friday. I’m Laura Worthington, the host for today’s show. I’m the Director of Product at GinzaMetrics. Today we’ll be talking about “The Intersection of PR and Search.” We got a bit of a different setup this week as we’re joined by Erin Robbins O’Brien, GinzaMetrics COO, and the Managing Director of Hotwire PR, Leslie Campisi. They’re both together in San Francisco. Leslie manages both the New York and San Francisco offices for Hotwire. We appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.
Leslie: Thanks for inviting me.
Laura: If you watched any of our FOUND Friday events, then you’ve seen Erin action. She has a background on strategy, business intelligence, and marketing so she knows quite a bit about our topic for the day.
Before we get started with the discussion, I just want to remind everyone that you can submit questions to us via the Google Hangout interface at any time or you can tweet us using the #FOUNDFriday and we’ll respond to as many questions as you have live. We’ll also be doing a recap on our blog, so you’ll be able to check that out sometime next week.
To get us started, there are some interesting similarities between search and PR. One of them is that people don’t really understand them or don’t trust the practitioners in either area. PR is not just about press releases and SEOs, not just about being number one on Google.
Leslie, can you set the stage for our discussion about talking a little bit about Hotwire’s philosophy on PR and how you all help your clients?
Leslie: Yeah. Sure. Basically, we’re the social pariahs. Just a bit about Hotwire… we’re a global agency and we’ve been out there for 15 years. Always a specialist focused on technology clients, founded in London, U.S. office opened two years ago, and now I run the New York and San Francisco offices as you noted.
I would say for Hotwire, there are four different tiers for us. The first is really our domain expertise and that’s text – B2B, B2C, pretty much everything under the sun. The second one is distance of accountability. I think that’s something that we’ll give into, but even from our earliest days, founding story of Hotwire is all about doing what we say that we will do and being transparent so measurement is really important to us.
We also focus a lot on talent and recruitment. I hope we get to talk about that too, because I think our worlds are converging and I need good search clients in my agency and probably use some PR clients from yours maybe.
The fourth for us is this idea of applied innovation. Looking not just serving tech companies but also thinking about how we can really treat Hotwire as a tech company. We’ve invested a little bit. I don’t know if you noticed, but we’ve created our own software product on the analytics side called Listening Post that we use still kind of [03:26 inaudible] worthy. We don’t sell it as a standalone but just to help power up our PR campaign.
I would say philosophically, to keep up with the pace that our clients innovate, we have to always be looking forward to. We’re definitely looking at search, definitely looking at content, brand journalism, content marketing, and all that good stuff.
Laura: Erin, as search behavior shifts from keywords into more conversational search, what opportunities and challenges do you think this is providing for PR?
Erin: I think that PR is going to have a lot of room to grow and a lot of space. There are so much greenfield opportunities for not just PR or brand marketing or digital strategy or anything to do something. Everybody has all of these new toys and changes and things that they can do.
What that means for all of us is the market is not this one size. It’s this ever-expanding place as technology begins to shift, as consumer behavior continues to change. Some of the things that are probably really good opportunities are brands need smart strategic counsel now more than ever and then they need quick, effective action as well.
Marrying this idea of being smart and strategic as well as being able to act and react quickly is a place that PR has a really great opportunity because a lot of people that are more traditional PR, people have experience in crisis communications are used to having to put together a thoughtful well-written response to something. And so I think that in that response and the ability to write and craft communication appropriately means that when something happens that’s newsworthy, PR people are great able to write blog posts about it, make good content, makes slideshow text, do videos, help people really start to be knowledgeable about that.
One of the challenges is making sure that everybody who read news is educated about all of the different mediums. There are so many different places to be and understanding the difference between the mediums being popular to different generation sets versus what’s appropriate for the brand. I think that there’s a lot of really trying to understand just because I think that this medium is cool or just because this is new or even because it’s been around for 50 years doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct for my brand. I’d say that making sure that everybody across the organization gets [5:59 inaudible] that is another challenge that everybody else see.
Laura: I guess taking a step back to look at search and PR in a little bit broader perspective, can either of you address how you think that search is fitting into the bigger picture for agencies and clients?
Leslie: One of the things that search and PR both have in common these days is a focus on breaking news. From a PR perspective – I’ll go off a little tangent – there’s an awesome guy Nick Gooster [6:39?] who writes a blog for Wired called Beyond the Beyond. He’s also kind of a futurist. At the end of every year he goes to the WELL, one of the first online communities ever. And he and all his other WELL brethren get together and then make these predictions for the year. I remember actually, it’s coming up at the end of this month. But last year one of his big predictions was in 2013 we’re going to stop talking about the Internet and we are only going to talk about Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple.
That really resonated with me because from a PR perspective, where the media relations has shifted, its so focused now on jumping in for future commentary, paying attention to what’s happening in the news and its almost always, at least from the tech and the business press side, focused on following what these giant 800 pound gorillas in the industry are up to.
For every single client that Hotwire serves, we may be saying, “Great. Let’s make sure that we pitch this product announcement when it happens for this client win.” So much of our remit on an ongoing basis is paying attention to what’s happening in the news cycle and crashing a quick opinion on it and jumping in it and trying to secure that earned media coverage. I think part of the reason why we do it is probably part of the same reason why on the search side you want to do it too. It’s because search engines love it and it brings attention to you.
Erin: Definitely. In my experience there are two roles within a company. Either you are helping make the product or doing the service or you are helping that thing get found. Those things are married more closely together than ever before as consumers get feedback via social and other channels and marketers get that information which helps drive product innovation in a lot of ways or helps change things. People who are more on the product creation side are being more active in content creation. They’re having their own blogs and Twitter places.
But I would say that for me, everybody that’s on the side of helping something get found is dedicated to that. In some way, shape, or form, everybody that’s in marketing, customer service, advertising, public relations, SEO, organic anything, whatever it is, it’s all about findability because that’s the point. You want whatever it is that your building, making, doing, etc. to be found and not just to be found in general but to be found by the right kind of people. Everybody has a little bit of a different slice of that.
I feel like because we’re all involved in this getting found situation that as all video channels and consumer behavior shifts not just because of social media and things but because everything has moved from television, radio, billboard to involving now Internet possibly broken up to different things – tablets, mobile devices, interactive media – is that brands are being found in multiple base. And so we all need to make sure that when they’re found, they understand how it was, in terms of making breaking news is really spot on because something will happen and people will immediately go search on it.
One of the things that I think is always interesting is The Today Show does like, “What was searched for this evening,” and they have this guy from Google come and sit in. One of the things he talks about is all the top searches for Google that week. And 99%of the time it’s stuff that was always breaking news.
People hear about something, they see a post on Twitter, they see it on their Facebook feed, they hear about it on the radio, whatever the case may be, and then they go search for it. Whatever content has been created that’s related that is what people understand. And so being aligned with it is really important.
Leslie: It’s a double-edged sword, too. You know the news around Nelson Mandela’s passing. It has been very interesting to watch the past 12 hours or so that get into the news cycle and see how brands and which brands are going there because it can backfire on you, for sure. We’ve all see very clumsy, jumping on the wrong hashtag. Findability can come at the expense of humanity and diminishing someone else’s relevance and their ability to give you information that they want.
Erin: There’s definitely an unspoken line most of the time apparently for something being pulled. Maybe spoken in line of there’s a difference between humanity and findability for sure and I think there’s a big difference between saying, “The Bay area is experiencing a huge cold front coming through,” and somebody saying, “Hey, are you chilly and visiting? We have coats 50% off.” That’s relevant versus making a statement during time of crisis, during morning periods.
In my mind all of those things are off limits. I feel sad that we even have to tell people, like brands that you shouldn’t do anything around that and what’s considered too soon. But we’re always surprised. Every month or two, the world just says come [12:20?].
Leslie: In PR, it’s not always just about brand awareness. For us either. What we’re talking about tactically from a PR perspective is win the goal is to increase brand awareness, findability, getting noticed, having people to discover you. But sometimes from a PR perspective it is more about differentiation or more about changing someone’s perception. I would say this idea of being found is very salient to PR, but it’s not all that we’re about or the only thing that we care about.
Erin: For us, one of the places that I think Laura will probably hit on this is, one of the places that I would say is good for everybody to go and to recognize, you can create differentiation, a lot of that is about creating content or being in the place where you want to be different. If you’re trying to move from one particular image of a brand to a new image of a brand, in creating content around that new image so that when people go look for that like you’re there will help differentiation.
I hate using a content modus buzz word but, for lack of a better term, having material or being where people are in the realm of what you want your brand, product or service to be is the thing. How well can anybody know about something if somebody didn’t word-of-mouth speak about it, didn’t tweet about it, Facebook about it, read a blog post about it, read a newspaper article about it, see on television? There’s no really other way to discover anything that doesn’t have some kind of content created. I consider word-of-mouth content, because the way that word-of-mouth happens is when somebody gets really excited about something because they have an experience.
Leslie: It goes back to your earlier point about not just saying yes to every possible media or channel. To figure out, where are your influencers? Who are the people that you want to be talking to? Where are they?
I guess that may be another parallel among the pariah search and PR. There can be this perception that you have to check every single box that’d be in every single place and you really don’t if you identify the right channels that commit to that and do them well in a strategic way. That’s where to get your win.
Laura: Another thing that PR and search have in common is that they’re both dead or dying on a regular basis. Leslie, can you talk about how PR is evolving to keep up with the constant changes in search and in other areas of marketing?
Leslie: Perhaps that’s just PR people talking to PR people, but we’re living in the Golden Age of PR. What I really mean by that is that this is an Age of Curation. If you think about the role of a PR person more as a curator, as someone who helps you make sense of all the information that is out there, whether that’s brand to end user or end user to brand, I think that PR is not dying at all. It’s shifting. The PR people in the ad, people in the media, the comms planning people, the search people – the boundaries are getting looser and looser every day.
What you were saying earlier about PR people being very poised to have an important seat at the table, if I’m a CMO, I may have four agencies but, for a lot of these important questions, the person with the best ideas wins, whether that is your PR agency person or your ad agency person or whoever they are. It’s really about not what your title is or worrying about the death of your industry because if you’re smart and you’re paying attention to all of this stuff, the good ideas will rise to the top. Do you agree?
Erin: Yeah. What you said earlier at the very beginning of the show is absolutely correct. It’s just about talent. This idea of talent is so important because people from various backgrounds all have a lot of really important things to do. What’s important is that everybody takes whatever their educational experiential background is from 5, 10, 15 years ago and continues to grow and build on it and make it into something that’s relevant continuously. Everybody has to do that.
One of the things that the industry really has a tough time about – Laura, we talk about this on FOUND Friday and all the time – is this idea that a title or a name of an industry or a practice or a person in any way, shape, or form becomes irrelevant. Short of me saying that “I fix stop watches from 1885,” I can’t really think having a communications background or an analytics background or the ability to write a coherent sentence is ever going to be relevant. In fact, I think it’s more relevant now than ever.
Saying “somebody has an SEO or search background” or “somebody has a PR background” is really tough. For me, one of the things that is interesting is social media has a tough name. Social media is disparaged or not understood by people of certain generations. I find that younger generations don’t even understand why social media manager or social media strategist is different than just marketing because they always have social media in some way, shape, or form so they ask, “Why is this even a separate job?”
Putting titles on things and making assumptions about somebody’s skill set or relevance in the marketplace will continue to be a problem and that’s just because the market will continue to move and people will naturally just generate titles to fill in the holes where they feel there’s an expertise gap. Hopefully that’ll change.
Leslie: One of the things that we have in common – correct me if I’m wrong – I think it will work. I switched to PR about halfway through my career. I worked as a content manager. I worked in-house on the marketing side. I worked as an interactive producer. I just happen to meet someone who’s starting with PR agency and saw there are new things for me to learn.
That’s the kind of attitude that I look for and the kind of people that I want to bring on to my team. I’ve hired a couple of journalists recently. I hope to coach someone from a search company at some point. But I think that’s your story too.
Erin: I came from comms and analytics and marketing and business intelligence. I even did a second PR as well. All of those things have created a background and hopefully an understanding of why being found via searching content is so important.
One of the things Laura mentioned a few minutes ago about what’s going on with search and PR is people are looking for stuff, so it’s not just about single keywords anymore. It’s about these phrases and topics and things that people go look for. They’re looking for that on search engines, they’re looking for that on social media, they’re typing it in via laptop, tablet, and mobile device, all of these different things and each of these mediums has a different way that people are typing, different things that they’re doing with, looking into a realm they never had to deal with. Or it’s not just about voice search, asking Siri or other things like Google, being able to query that way. And now having to be able to make sure that we can measure that so that we really know what people are looking for and what visiting and how they got there.
We’re really entering a very interesting time where I look back at the 2012 recap that GinzaMetrics did December-January time last year and realized it was like a seven-page dissertation from Ray is that we’re getting ready to probably have possibly even longer one this year. I think that that’s good because it forms again to the relevance on what we’re doing in all of us.
Leslie: Do you see things reaching a point of convergence? It’s the agency of the future. Is this a team comprised of all of these people in-house to the brand? Is it one agency that can offer all of these services that comes to play? Or do we still need these domain specialists and the best minds in those categories around the table together?
Erin: I’m going to say the cliché thing, which I think it’s whatever works for a brand. I would say that that really depends on the brand and where they are. For startups and small companies, the reality is they probably can’t afford a huge in-house team for multiple agencies, and so they need to find a Jack of all trades person who work with a couple of people or an agency that has a mix of specialties or has talent that has a mixture of specialties regardless of what the agency’s title is.
For big brands and things, it doesn’t matter to me whether you have 1 or 100 agencies or an in-house team or keep everything external. It’s that everybody needs to talk to each other. I would say that the convergence thing I’m hoping happens in communication, not necessarily in core career choice. I just need everybody to start talking to each other more.
What we uncover from a search perspective about what people are looking for now and how your brand is being found now can be shard across advertising, marketing, PR, multiple different things. The things that PR practitioners are seeing everywhere about trends in the market, what people getting ready to talk about, all these things are things that could be shared so that people who are on the searching content side can create a better content to help support those goals and initiatives.
Hopefully communication is the convergence but I still see a long way to go. Laura can testify the fact that pretty much everybody that we had on the show has at some point alluded to the fact that people across departments in big brands not talking to each other.
Leslie: That’s was what I was going to ask you. Do you see your clients sharing the information?
Erin: Not as much as they should. We push and push and push. But from end it’s even harder because a lot of our clients are agencies. An agency will use us and be able to send our data to a brand, so we don’t ever have the opportunity to say or we can suggest to the agency “You guys should be talking together to the people there,” but they’re like, “Hey, you’re preaching to the choir.”
Leslie: Also, agencies want to take that. There’s a certain line set that says, “That’s our value ad. We’re providing this to the brand. We don’t want any of their other partners to see this.” That’s certainly not how we approach it because I think you have to play nice in the sandbox. You have to believe that if you’re good at what you do. Sharing insights and business intelligence and information is only going to help submit your relationship with your client. But perhaps I’m just ambiguous.
Laura: I wanted to see if you all could share any more technical advice that you think for people who want to try to strengthen the intersection between what they’re doing from a public relations side and search, they want to link these together more. What are some things that you would suggest to them to start doing now?
Leslie: If you’re on the agency side, when you initiate a relationship with the client, but also it’s never too late but especially in the early days, just ask for the introduction. Demand to know. What are you guys doing on the search side? How could we get plugged to it? Is it in-house? Is it a partner? Who are all your third party measurement analytics providers? Let’s just have that meeting. Unless you commit to broaching that subject, you’ll never know.
Erin: I totally agree. Knowing what tools somebody’s already invested in and if the answer is none, then being able to make some smart recommendations especially in a way that doesn’t immediately cost the client a lot of money up front but shows the value of why making that a bunch of line item is really important and valuable.
The other thing I would say is, having some examples of how understanding what people are looking for and how that is contributing to you and your brand’s existing findability and existing knowledge versus maybe where they want to go. Let’s say that you’re talking about is people that want to really switch gears or rebrand or being known for a different thing or maybe they have five products and they’re only known for one, and they want some stuff for the other ones, being able to say, “Hey, here is what being what people come across when they type this phrase into a search engine,” or when they type it on Twitter or Facebook and they’re really looking for something, being what’s there has a really profound impact.
We like to help people create these kinds of case studies so they could take them and share this information. One of the parallels that I make a lot is I don’t know why paid and organic don’t hang out more because for us, you should totally be creating ads around the things that people are already searching for that lead you to your rank. If you’re not creating ads that mimic what it is that’s organically leading people there, you’re just leaving money on the table.
We also want to know with paid, what’s getting the highest click-through rates because that tells us from a search perspective that we should be tracking those keywords and phrases, creating content around that sort of thing. Maybe expanding in some parallel areas so maybe what you do is you do a search and say, “Hey, people are clicking a lot on this. What are some ancillary things that we could be doing as well?”
There are so many things places that people could forge really strong bonds from a tactical perspective. Know what tools people are using. Learn how to use them. Also be willing to be the first to share information. Don’t say, “I want your information,” or somebody bolts a little bit and say, “Well fine, screw you. I’m not going to give you ours either.” Maybe proactively send some insights and then hope that they’ll reciprocate.
Laura: Normally what we do is we go into what we call a “lightning round” where we talk about some key topics in search or content marketing that have crossed our paths this week. Do either one of you have anything pressing that you really want to share with us quickly?
Leslie: Yesterday I was having a great chat with Mark Ragan from Ragan’s. He runs the website PR Daily. And he’s a big proponent of brand journalism.
He asked, “What do you think about Coke deciding that by 2015 they shall retire press releases?”
I said, “What? If you’re Coke, why do you even need a press release? You’re a giant brand. You have analysts and journalists following your every move.”
I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it and part of it because the clients that Hotwire works with are small. They may be mid-sized tech companies but you have to go out and fight for every piece of earned media that we get.
We do have conversations with our clients about the value of the press release. Is it dead or whatever. I think the differentiation we make is, it’s not about “Do you write the press release or not?” It’s about “What do you do with it?” That conversation often goes into the realm of SEO.
I have found myself in the past saying, “Oh, maybe there’s some search value, like create a press release, tag it up, distribute it, post it to your website,” but don’t expect any kind of earned media results off of that. It’s important to make a decision. Do we put our media relations muscle behind this or not?
Erin: One of the interesting things that you’re saying is, looking back to my old PR stuff, one of the great things about press release is the exercise of doing the release itself which for me, as a COO, the thing that forces me to do is be like, “What is the news here? What did we create and why? What is the inversed pyramid style of what’s going on with this?” I still like the fact that we’re doing it as a mental exercise.
Leslie: And you can sense this and decide what the story is exactly.
Erin: Ironically enough, I was actually a Chief Communications [30:49 inaudible] social media press release. One of the things that was interesting about that is that was a ground breaking thing at the time. Now if you told people that you want to use a social media press release, they’ll look at you and think, “Isn’t that just a press release?” People that have come into the practice in the last five, six, seven years probably don’t understand why needing a social media version of a press release was ever a thing. That’s just the way that it is.
I can see that one of the great things about the press release ad is the practice of itself and the mental exercise that you have to go through. I also love the SEO value of it and being able to get some fat links to stuff.
One of the things that I would say is a really good falling down of the press release practice is the idea for it to be technically a release is to [31:47 inaudible] post it somewhere when most people are like, “Well screw that. I have blog post because that gives me the SEO value to sync things wherever whenever.” But the industry itself will still at times, and especially in certain particular verticals, look in it as not as credible if it doesn’t go on an actual wire service.
I’m wondering if this is a thing that’s going to change. This might be a really good follow-up conversation for us to have. Where will the technicality of releasing a press release have to go over the next year, five years? I have a feeling that that’s going to change. I might have to create myself a little service.
Leslie: Yeah. We should keep that up.
Laura: We’re going to wrap it up now. Thank you to Leslie and Erin for joining us today for Hangout.
If you want to learn more about how to get found online by integrating your content in social media and search efforts, please check out the other links that we have if you’re watching on YouTube channel. You can also look us up online. Our website is GinzaMetrics.com.
I really appreciate everybody that joined us. We’ll be back again next week with another FOUND Friday. Thank you.
Leslie: Thank you.
Erin: Bye, everyone.