What does the Bellwether report tell us about the future of PR agencies?

bigstockSeoWordCloudThe IPA’s Bellwether report provides a much more positive outlook for marketers; at last forecasting the increase in spend that we have been waiting for since business confidence slowly started returning at the beginning of last year. The survey found 27% of the panel registered an upward revision of marketing budgets, with 43% of marketing executives growing more confident about industry financial prospects.

There is, however, some divergence across the marketing spend categories – it’s probably no surprise that digital marketing is the main beneficiary of the upward revision – with search, content and mobile marketing being cited prominently by survey respondents. However, what does strike me as something of a paradox is the most negative fall in marketing spend occurring in PR (falling from -1.7% in Q3 to -2.8% at the end of 2013) at a time when PR and search, as disciplines, are so obviously intertwined.

Perhaps it’s the fact that SEO and PR are still being offered as separate services, and that many PR agencies ‘just do PR’.  Perhaps it’s the fact that PR and search are combined with the objective of ultimately driving more traffic to a website – which is an SEO objective, whereas traditional PR is more about raising awareness of a brand or business.

What is clear is that, as Google continues to refine it’s ranking algorithm to weed out spam results and provide users with the most relevant results to their search queries – SEO and PR have had to join forces as a holistic marketing discipline.  Both disciplines are very much focused on finding the angles, producing great content that is linkable and shareable and then optimising for social channels and mobile devices.

In which case this divergence could be a clear sign that PR agencies without an SEO offering, certainly without an awareness of SEO, are going to get left behind.

Tim Beaver is a Digital Planner at WAA.