Skip to content

Does PR have the stamina to run with SEO?

Someone calling himself “Daniel R.” has started a blog that explores the integration of Public relations (PR) and SEO. I call him “someone calling himself Daniel R.” because that is part of that I consider a problem with traditional PR when it says it wants to “get” the web. The web is largely about commitment. You need to blurt it out, take a stand, express your opinion, and be prepared to handle the consequences. And that handling of consequences will characterize you.

Daniel R. says he is a member of NetImpact, which he refers to as “a young professionals organization focusing on Social Corporate Responsibility”. I went and looked at the netimpact web pages because I am very much interested in social responsibility. I had never heard of NetImpact, but that’s not too surprising. On the web pages I saw a picture of a group of NetImpact “young MBAs” standing in front of a white truck marked “Food Bank”:

Now Food Bank sounds great. But what is that corporate logo on the truck? You know, the big red lettering? Right where it says CONAGRA FOODS? You know Conagra, one of the largest processed foods manufacturers in the world. One of the big players, often named alongside Archer Daniels Midland. Think genetically modified foods slipping into the distribution chain (search StarLink fiasco), think global corporations prohibiting farmers from saving their own seeds to replant, think food companies that seek to use chemicals in place of natural foods whenever possible in order to save pennies, when there remain significant unanswered questions about the safety of food additives, the safety of huge scale processed foods, possible connections between food additives and ADHD and other childhood disorders, etc.

Now I am not at all accusing ConAgra Foods of any wrong doing. And of course they are AT LEAST providing some sort of support to this Food Bank (at least the picture says so..). As a cynic tough,  I wonder what the tax writeoff was on the foods they donated to the food bank? As a marketer I wonder what that branding and “PR” was really worth… if they had needed to purchase it. As a human I wonder about the value of all of those high-energy MBAs volunteering to work for NetImpact. Hmmm….
Anyway the point is not ConAgra or NetImpact… the point is commitment. I welcome Daniel R. to the SEO space (as if I had any diplomatic role to play in the SEO space! Hah! Now that’s funny!). He’s only written a few posts, but his topics are good… Public Relations needs SEO, and SEO may benefit from working with Public Relations people. The question in my mind is, why should they? And why should I listen to Daniel R. If I don’t even know his full name?

SEO is fast moving and aggressive. SEO is opinionated, because as SEOs we see the real deal and work on metrics. We know what works, even though the web guy and the systems guy with 30 years experience might think otherwise. We know what will get results, even if the marketing department wants to wait until Nielson or Comscore say it’s ok. Perhaps most importantly, we want to be proven wrong, because if you can’t prove us wrong we know we are right. And if you can prove us wrong, all that does is enable us to fix what’s wrong and move ahead.

SEO is about metrics and results, which come with accountablity. Is PR too often about propaganda and cover up?  Does today’s crop of PR people have what it takes to run with SEO? Is that even a smart thing to do?


  1. John,

    Thank you for both of your comments.

    1. Regarding my name

    Just to let you know, I agree with the “be up front and disclose” argument. There are some reasons I have been withholding my full name (like the need to heighten my privacy settings on my various social-network sites from my college days or better yet close the accounts).

    But since you pointed it out, yes I will be updating that. And I will be providing a link to my LinkedIn profile for those curious about my professional background.

    2. Regarding PR SEO: “Does PR have the stamina to run with SEO?”

    At least for now, I think its going to take a lot of education on the part of SEO to really lead on a joint effort. Would the PR firm be comfortable with that? It depends on a per relationship basis and it also takes alot of time.

    On the other hand, there are situations where the SEO teams tries to jump in with a PR campaign already underway. No one likes a seperate team, dept. or agency that appears to butt-in in the last minute in to your campaign, resouces and budget.

    To be honest, I think lots of folks, myself included, are still thinking this out as some of us even start implementing this approach. But, I think lots of us do recognize there’s an opportunity – if not need – to work together in some areas.

    Cheers and happy blogging,


    Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  2. john andrews wrote:

    Welcome Daniel and thanks for enriching the discussion. I think it’s a great topic and it needs to be discussed.

    I completely agree that there needs to be collaboration between SEO and PR, but I am not as convinced that PR adds sufficient value when there is a competant SEO involved. In the absence of an aggressive SEO component, does PR get challenged adequately? Or does the “threat” posed by SEO (especially as it gets serious about link baiting and viral marketing) drive decision makers to re-evaluate PR’s contribution to ROI? And if so, where is the fat that needs trimming?

    The SEO budgets I have seen are slim, with high levels of accountability (performance metrics are built in). They impose constant pressure on the SEO for positive outcomes. SEO demands stamina. Good SEOs are able to keep their successes highly visible, and that can incentivize further investment. The money has to come from somewhere. Can PR defend it’s budget? What new metrics will be imposed on the PR process, and what will that do to quality and effectiveness? All interesting questions, no?

    Thursday, July 20, 2006 at 5:56 pm | Permalink