3 Tips for Building Digital PR Agency

When it comes to describing their digital media capabilities, many PR agency owners and managers are cocktail-party compliant. They talk about using Facebook or Twitter in their campaigns, content marketing or new blogs. Does that make the agencies digital?

“They’re not truly digital in the best sense of the term,” said Don Bates, senior counselor, digital and new technology, at Gould+Partners and clinical assistant professor in New York University’s graduate program in public relations and corporate communication.

Below, Bates provides three tips on how to morph into a digital PR agency that executes high-end digital programs and strategies for a more lucrative list of clients.

Where is your agency on the digital spectrum?
Where is your agency on the digital spectrum?

1. Define what it means to be a digital agency. As digital communication moves more quickly toward the core of strategic PR and marketing delivery, simply creating “stream-based” content is no longer enough. “Agencies have to be more than generalists when it comes to digital media content,” Bates said. “They have to provide specialized digital services developed and directed by staff who know how to think through and create campaigns with advanced SEO and that have strong possibilities of going viral.” He added, “If you’re going to call yourself a digital agency, people looking at your agency expect that email, video, social media, data analytics, content marketing, and the latest digital technologies permeate the agency’s work and not be in isolated silos.”

2. Develop strong PR leadership to drive digital delivery. The onus is on PR, marketing and ad agency owners to hire digital-savvy engineers and technicians who can teach digital PR teams how to use the latest technology to drive their digital practice. “This goes beyond basic publicity and digital delivery,” Bates said. “It involves more sophisticated use of earned and paid media; more strategically packaged blogs, podcasts, audio and video; more in-depth, data-defined analytics; more immediate action via the latest digital technology; and a more refined interest in and eye for seeing what’s on the horizon technologically that must be integrated without delay.”

3. Build or buy? Many PR agencies have made key investments into digital PR and are able to build on this foundation. However, PR agencies that don’t have a deep reservoir of digital talent and services may have to buy or bolt on the necessary assets, especially since the learning curve to become truly digital on one’s own is pretty steep in most instances, according to Bates. “In like fashion, many digitally strong marketing and ad agencies may need to partner with PR or marketing agencies because they have knowledge and experience they desperately need to go beyond digital-only delivery,” he said. “There are two $64,000 questions: Where do we want to be digitally when we grow up, and what do we have to do now to move or start moving in that direction with as little delay as possible?”

What would you add to the list?