Agency tool building shows promise

As the progression to online communications got underway, communicators moved from the phones to the Web, managing blogger relations and monitoring social networks.

As the progression to online communications got underway, communicators moved from the phones to the Web, managing blogger relations and monitoring social networks. And today the fight for ownership, or at least a fair slice of the digital marketing budget, has begun in earnest among the various disciplines of advertising, PR, direct marketing, etc. But a promising new trend is emerging in the PR industry that will only aid the communicator's argument that he or she best understands these markets: the creation of new products and tools.

Both Waggener Edstrom and Edelman created Twitter monitoring tools this year, and in June, MWW created a free iPhone app for marketing professionals that aggregates feeds by industry, such as PR and social media, from across blogs and other relevant sites. WE recently launched a professional, paid version of its Twendz Twitter monitor, giving it the potential to directly generate revenue for the firm. There are other examples of Web-based tool building among agencies, but they remain only a handful.

The problem, of course, with the mentioned tools is that they are limited in their scope. Though it's popular now, Twitter's longevity remains unknown. However, these agencies still deserve plaudits as innovators and for their forward-thinking. As the media environment shrinks and fragments, PR pros will have to continuously diversify their services – much of it to be Web-focused. These firms will not only have that technical expertise already built in, but they will have established solid reputations in a sought-after market.

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