The Public Relations Society of America's Los Angeles chapter holds an event in January of each year where they have a panel of the top PR experts look at what the state of PR is and where it is headed for the next year. All five panelists mentioned social media and how it has changed the practice of PR this year.
Search, however, is not part of the PR lexicon yet. In answer to a question from the floor Joe Kessler of SS & K said that search is an area every PR person should understand and use, but it is a gaping hole in the PR toolset.
When Greg Jarboe saw the importance of search for PR and started to optiimize press releases four or five years ago he called his agency SEO-PR. But it was not the PR industry that adopted the practice, it was SEO agencies. So we had the odd situation of non-PR folk writing press releases.
And here we are in 2008 and one of the top agency CEOs says search is something of value and should be an integral part of all PR campaigns.
What makes search so important to PR?
* Studies have shown conclusively that page one positioning in the search engines affects your brand value. In many cases the SERP is the first contact someone has with your company. How you appear on that page influences their perception of your business.
* If a searcher persistently sees your business on page one for the key phrases they're searching it leads them to believe you are a major player in this field
* User-generated content has given the power of voice to consumers. Peer reviews and comments are the number one influencer prior to action or purchase today. Blogs and comments are showing up in search results pages.
* If there is negative content on the page it can damage your reputation.
* Journalists are using search engines to find information when they research a story. Being highly visible in the search engines could increase your media coverage.
These are all very traditional PR areas of expertise. And search is influencing every one of them. It is tool PR professionals have to master.