By Daniel Whitelegg
As companies finally take heed of the younger generation urging them to move into the 21st century, the online corporate footprint is growing rapidly as big businesses belatedly begin to embrace new media.
This has resulted in a new breed of public relations as digital PR begins to replace the old school methods of PalmPilots and red pens.
This trend can be seen more in the digital hub of the North, Leeds, more than anywhere else outside London. There are nearly 3,500 creative and digital firms in and around Leeds which makes it the strongest digital focus beyond the capital. Therefore it follows that digital PR thrives in a city that understands new media better than most. Which is why brands such as Converse, Radley and Lucozade have chosen Leeds based digital PR agencies recently.
Finn PR agency for instance, based just outside of the city centre, swept the board in 2012 with an arm-full of awards including “Best Use of Social Media” and “Best Digital Campaign”. Stickyeyes, another Leeds-based firm, won four prizes at the recent UK search awards including “Best Use of PR in a Search Campaign” and the “Grand Prix”.
Digital PR differs from that of traditional PR as it is more of a two-way conversation. Traditional methods didn’t stray too far from the stereotypes of having contacts at news organisations to spin positive media coverage. Digital PR is much more about interaction, with social media being the main focus. Networks such as Facebook and Twitter enable a business to tap into their target audiences lives, by selling user’s data to the highest bidder.
Chris Norton, head of Prohibition PR in Headingley, believes it is necessary that PR moves into the digital age in order for small companies to compete against big business. He says, “all PR should be digital because all media is digital. We write well researched articles for real people because that’s what’s going to get people to link to you and push you up the Google rankings. We’re competing against SEO’s who have big budgets whose sole aim is to get big business to the top of the page.”
It seems to be working so far as big brands are turning repeatedly to small digital PR agencies to manage their public relations and social media presence.
There is an argument that suggests these small digital PR agencies only have a limited lifespan as traditional firms begin to include digital elements in their work. Initially, these small agencies survived as they had a leg up on the competition. This is because they had an unrivalled understanding of how digital works and how it could be optimised.
However, their niche is slowly eroding as everything becomes more digital. Conventional PR practitioners are beginning to acquire the skills which were once reserved for the technologically literate and those fast enough to catch on. Will Ockendon, a Leeds based PR practitioner, says, “there are more and more full service agencies cropping up but when it comes to online presence, they’re more concerned with SEO.
If you want to get your website to the top of the rankings, then these will be the agencies to contact, but the majority of small digital PR companies offer something different to that.
They provide a more human touch and increase your brand awareness and relationship with customers in a way that’s not as easy to measure. This will ensure that the two don’t completely merge into one identity.”
The thing with the digital and creative sector is that they are always on the cusp of the next big tech and innovation. So it is likely that as traditional PR firms are entering the game, the established players will already be onto the newest format.
It is that knowledge, that ability to stay ahead of the competition which will ensure that Leeds digital PR will continue to prosper.
What is Digital PR?
Digital PR is all about combining traditional PR with content marketing, social media and search. It transforms static news into conversations and bypassing media to speak directly to a target audience online.
Which companies in Leeds use Digital PR?
Prohibition PR, Finn PR and Stickyeyes are just a few of the agencies in Leeds that utilise technology and the modern ways of communicating to improve their services.
Why do companies use this approach?
Integrating digital PR into a company’s marketing strategy helps build brand awareness, and also helps generate more contacts and ideas, allowing content get the attention of millions.
What will happen to the old method of PR?
The internet has transformed the media industry. As a result, the PR industry is completely different and companies have to adapt to the change because the traditional rules of PR do not work anymore. Now, if a PR agency wishes to get its client’s audiences’ attention, a press release is no longer enough. The online world is allowing brands to talk directly to its customers. As a result, the old methods of PR are no longer nessaccary.