Almost two thirds (65.1 percent) of marketing professionals in the U.K. and Ireland recognize the importance of online or digital public relations, and believe that it will be completely integrated with other corporate communications channels by 2012, according to new research from Citigate Dewe Rogerson. However, almost half (48.6 percent) say that lack of available budgets is holding back progress, while 40.4 percent say that they don’t have the skills in-house to adopt new digital PR techniques. The third barrier to adoption is a lack of understanding of business benefits, cited by 31.2 percent of respondents.
The positive news is that 51.4 percent of marketing professionals have adopted at least some elements of online PR, including activities such as search engine optimization, pay-per-click, online content and e-newsletters. And 42.2 percent said they would increase the proportion of budget spent on online in the next financial year, with 11.9 percent starting activities for the first time.
But fewer respondents fully understand the reach that digital PR increasingly has with younger audiences. Many brands don’t yet use new channels such as blogs, Twitter and social networking to reach key audiences, promote their capabilities or protect their brand.
Those companies that are further along the online PR adoption curve are far more likely to embrace activities that take them closer to their audiences, such as blogger relations, social networking engagement and writing a company blog. They are also much more likely to measure the impact of online PR activities (only 3.8 percent say they do not measure impact, compared to 26.6 percent overall), and tend to involve more disciplines in online PR, including PR, marketing, IT and corporate communications.
According to Phil Szomszor, head of digital at Citigate Dewe Rogerson: “It’s encouraging that online PR is firmly on the radar of marketing departments, with many committed to spending more as a proportion of their PR budget in 2009. But we urge companies to consider areas that will deliver greater reputation management value than SEO and e-newsletters, such as buzz monitoring, blogger relations and, where appropriate, social network engagement and producing company blogs.
“Companies can learn a great deal from those brands that are already blazing a trail with online PR, including the need to measure results, involve a wider range of disciplines, secure senior management buy-in and use a wider range of tools and channels.”