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By Jim Bianchi, APR, President
What do PR firm owners from around the world talk about when they get together?
Well, when we gathered in Washington D.C. with more than 40 of our PRGN partners from around the globe recently for PRGN’s semi-annual conference, search engine optimization, digital content and trust topped the list of subjects we discussed.
Following three days of conversation at the conference, which was hosted by Xenophon Strategies, PRGN’s Washington D.C.-based strategic public affairs firm (www.xenophonstrategies.com), our PRGN colleagues identified several key takeaways about the emerging global communications environment, including:
1) Search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to building business today. Customers and clients increasingly are finding and vetting their business partners through online search. If you’re not doing SEO, you may never be found by the right people. PRGN agencies are helping their clients with SEO through quality content, Paid/Earned/Shared/Owned campaigns and other approaches which leverage and balance traditional PR and digital channels.
2) Nothing will fix bad content. Content is king, but content without the right strategy, context or audience is just clutter. The best content comes from knowing and addressing the specific wants and needs of your audience, thereby making your content “shareworthy,” and in knowing where to find and activate that audience, as it’s easier to find a community than to build a community. For maximum ROI on content, PRGN advises that communicators plan to spend as much time and effort promoting the content as you did to create it.
3) To be successful in the tsunami of online content, modern storytelling has to touch human emotions and incorporate powerful images. And increasingly, those stories need to be formatted to be responsive and effective on any type of device screen – smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop pc – and amplified via traditional media, otherwise they risk being passed over.
4) The best PR firms continue to expand their service offering AND to deepen their expertise in their key markets. More PRGN agencies are combining traditional and emerging methods to meet the new environment. While they are strengthening their relationships with reporters and influencers, immersing themselves deeper into their communities and industry sectors, and embedding themselves in key events and issues, they are also adding new channels, tools and platforms (digital content, SEO, social media marketing, video, photography, design, research and web) to be stronger business partners to their clients.
5) Technology can’t do it alone, but technology plus personal relationships is a powerful combination. By leveraging technology and established personal relationships, PRGN agencies can offer clients a competitive advantage across the country and around the world, with glocalization – programs that are developed and implemented globally, but are tailored to fit local markets and cultures by local, in-country experts.
6) Trust is more important than ever. In this age of massive product recalls, cheating scandals and record-level disdain for businesses, political candidates and institutions, trust is a scarce, but key, success factor. In fact, it’s the currency of good business. Being authentic – by demonstrating integrity, honesty and transparency – is the key to earning trust. PRGN member agencies help clients to stay on the right path and to build that kind of trust.
7) Agency owners need to get off the day-to-day business treadmill. As entrepreneurs, PRGN agency owners are so focused on serving their clients’ needs that they often don’t take the time to reset their agency vision, identify new opportunities for their agency and their clients, or look at emerging trends and issues to find new ways to create value for their clients. The semi-annual PRGN leadership conferences can encourage and act as a catalyst for this kind of vision-setting.
8) Great ideas can come from anywhere – from the other side of your own office to the other side of the globe. By seeking out and sharing diverse opinions and viewpoints across all demographic, geographic and cultural sectors, PRGN agencies have the ability to generate a world of great ideas to help their clients succeed.
PRGN’s Immediate Past President Ed Stevens, chairman and CEO of Stevens Strategic Communications in Cleveland, summed it up well: “In today’s competitive landscape, public relations firms need every weapon available to win the war by providing clients state-of-the-art services. The true value of an international PR network combines the knowledge of today’s trends and issues with key management performance indicators, entrepreneurial spirit and global/regional insights that could only be revealed and exchanged through direct, face-to-face communication. This PRGN conference provided our members with the ideal catalyst and platform for success.”
The bottom line is: While Bianchi PR’s headquarters is near Detroit, we offer global reach and expertise through our participation in PRGN — a tight-knit network of independently owned communications agencies that help us serve clients nationally and internationally – almost anywhere around the globe.