When Worlds Collide > Can Content Marketers Work With Traditional PRs?

Julia Ogden 7 years ago

Digital marketing, traditional marketing, PR, SEO… it’s all becoming the same kind of thing, isn’t it?  The art of promoting a client’s brand, goods or services, via ‘the media’, to an audience with the intention of converting them. Whether that’s into customers, converts or advocates.

Chris Lee hit the nail on the head when he wrote this blog post for eConsultancy last year, titled: SEO’s will slaughter careless PR agencies (harsh but true).  SEO and content marketing was, and still is, a MASSIVE threat for PR agencies, who have traditionally sold themselves on Reputation Management, Advertising, brand positioning and more recently Social Media / Community Management… all very familiar phrases to anyone working for a reputable digital marketing/SEO agency.

There is a huge amount of cross-over between PR and SEO, and it has taken the PR world a while to catch on, leaving the coast clear for clever SEO types to come in and start stealing some of their hard-earned thunder.

All the while, big brands are becoming increasingly aware of the power of digital and they are taking the opportunity seriously.  Many are now faced with the ‘in-house or agency’ dilemma, and with many choosing to opt for the ‘agency’ choice, a rising number of agencies are being thrown together to help a client achieve their dreams of worldwide domination (or maybe just a higher search engine rank, but it’s practically the same thing, right?).

Sometimes this is to help with a big one-off campaign, but increasingly it’s because brands are realising that these once disparate disciplines have actually got quite a lot in common and, dare I say it, could  help each other (and the client) in the long term.

However, it’s important for both SEO and PR to realise that it’s not a battle for supremacy - a chance to flex ones digital muscles – instead both have valuable skills they can teach and share with on another for the good of the clients they are working with.

As with all the best relationships, the road to a long and happy marriage requires a few ground-rules, a bit of compromise and lots of honest and open communication.  As Jon Morris cleverly covered earlier this year for inc.com: ‘Collaboration between PR and SEO teams can lead to new content, better publicity and even new business’… Surely a win/win for everyone.

Here is our guide to getting the best for your client when working with another agency:

Shared Goals

PR & SEO agencies working collaboratively for a client will already have an easily identifiable shared goal: To increase the client’s share of the marketplace.  However, each agency will have a different approach to achieving this over-arching goal, as well as a need to understand and agree other strategic goals.

Agreeing these goals early on will not only help to define your content strategy, but make sure that all parties are singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet, each knowing their area of responsibility and what they should be reporting back to the client.

Key Messages

The first part of this multi-faceted attack is to understand your client’s key messages.  What do they want to be famous for? What are their brand values? Who are their key customers/personas?  What tone of voice should be used?

The answers to these questions will not only help to understand your client better, they will also ensure consistency across all work that’s produced.

Targeted Keywords

Whilst it’s true that there is much more to SEO than just keywords, knowing how to target and optimise content to help organic traffic growth for the client’s key search terms is an element often overlooked by PR agencies who focus on the creation and distribution of content, but often without considering what terms the content should be ‘optimised’ for.

Adding a few well placed semantically relevant phrases and keywords as well as taking the time to consider the landing page URL structure and meta from a ‘search’ perspective could make a huge difference to a website’s potential.

Similarly a PR agency will be very skilled in producing content across a range of different medias, and will likely have a slick and well-oiled method of distributing it to the ‘big players’

By understanding and working with each other’s strengths and technical expertise, your collaboration will be a force to be reckoned with.

Distribution tactics

As all good PR agents will tell you; ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ and PR professionals invest a great time of time and effort building relationships with the right people to help them amplify whatever their latest message is.

These relationships are usually built up over years of being in the business, and often are the result of hours of meetings, lunches and dinner dates, away from emails and social media, but real person-to-person communication (remember that?!)

SEO and digital marketers tend to take a different approach and focus on reaching out to influential bloggers and site owners via email, Twitter or Facebook.  They live in the digital world and rely on the power of the fantastic, shareable content they produce to do the major legwork for them.

A shared, collaborative approach to outreach can work really well here, with both parties leveraging relationships with key influencers using the methods each party excels in.

Working from a shared outreach list will avoid any cross-over and ensure each party knows exactly what the other is up to and what kind of success they are having.

Invest in shared software

The ability to login to a system and check ‘real time’ results will be a massive win for anyone working with another agency.  Emails, Skype and telephone calls will take you so far, but being able to check a small detail, fact or figure at the touch of a button is a godsend.

Not only does this save time, it ensures the same message is distributed to anyone involved in the project and avoids Chinese Whispers.  As Mark Leech discussed on the Zazzle blog, there are a number of fantastic tools and resources to help you do this, and these range from a shared Google Doc, which is completely free, to a bespoke project management system like Basecamp or Podio.


I think it goes without saying that the key to success in any relationship is open and honest communication, and this is never truer than when working jointly with another agency.  Clients expect a seamless operation and won’t care about your individual internal politics or whether someone’s nose has been put out of joint by introducing a new agency into the picture.

Setting up regular conference calls between individual heads of teams and involving the client wherever possible is surprisingly useful and often overlooked. It is useful to regularly share notes, success stories and keep all parties in the loop regarding other marketing activities that may be happening.

I always find it amazing the number of SEO agencies who seem to bypass any other marketing the client is doing, or has done in the past.  There is likely to be a stash of content gold sitting under everyone’s noses that just needs uncovering. For example, huge above the line campaign the client executed last month might just explain that huge hike in branded organic traffic!

By best advice would be to remove all egos and start putting the client at the heart of everything you do.  Everything else should be easy!


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