Throw some digital in the bag, too, would ya?

Want to make the people who may have an expertise in digital media (or any other area, truth be told) on your PR team or in your agency smile?

Want to make the people who may have an expertise in digital media (or any other area, truth be told) on your PR team or in your agency smile? Include them in your new business, yearly planning, or idea creation phase before you've already figured out "all the other stuff" you'd like to do.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, given some of the anecdotes I've heard from colleagues in the space, it's one big frustration they've had in trying to provide great ideas, strategies, and plans for their agencies, teams, and clients, and one that I can definitely echo. To be fair, this certainly isn't always the case, and is by no means a condemnation of PR pros and those who handle new business and planning efforts. It is, however, a call to try to get teams to realize that by having all players at the table for planning, rather than "piling on" other areas after core plans are done, provides a much more solid result.

Think about it this way: If your firm received an RFP from an airline that requested some executive media training, core PR activities, and a crisis plan, you wouldn't read it as "executive media training, core PR activities, and oh, I almost forgot, a crisis plan," would you? For one thing, a crisis plan might be beyond critical to an airline. It would influence how you might do other things in your core duties and how you'd train the company's executives. In that same vein, how you integrate your digital media expertise into PR efforts overall might change the course of that absolutely critical planning or new business phase, and not just in a "this won't work with bloggers" kind of way.

The challenge I hear about most is that a proposal will be almost written and it'll reach someone's desk with the "can you please include some digital ideas for this client?" It's not an impossible task, but most new-business-proposal writers are probably not going to be too keen on someone sending back edits to their entire proposal (though maybe they'd just take them in stride and go with it) and not simply having a "digital activities" slide or set of paragraphs. It makes so much more sense to determine what digital executions can be created or built on top of what broader activities are going on, in addition to online or mobile-only concepts that may not have so-called "traditional" executions to them.

That said, if you do have a dedicated digital team or expert, they should be conscious of what the traditional media delivery of a campaign might be. If you're running a contest in which the entry consists of a photograph or a video, are there broadcast opportunities for the winner? Should local print media be involved? Those digital team members need to make sure they're providing the biggest bang for what they're recommending, even if that directs traffic offline.

At the end of the day, just as agencies have brought together their consumer or corporate communications teams, or crisis planners and healthcare teams, for example, we should consistently think big picture when it comes to digital. It's important that, heading into 2010, our PR teams truly operate more cooperatively and smartly, rather than buckets of expertise that happen to work under the same roof.

Tom Biro is a VP at Allison & Partners, and is based in Seattle. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at tom@allisonpr.com.


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