LEADER: Time to wake up to the power of the web

Ofcom’s annual survey on web use, published last week, may prove something of a watershed. For those in the UK media that still believe internet comms will ‘find its level’, it should be a wake-up call.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

The report, which questioned thousands of people, reminded us that the UK has the most active internet population in Europe. But, even more importantly, it shattered the myth that it is primarily a medium for kids, loafers and geeks.

Certainly there is a lot of rubbish online, particularly when one compares the internet as ‘a channel’ with, say, broadsheet newspapers or BBC radio. But web use is as central a part of the media diet of professional women and wealthy pensioners, as it is teenagers and students. 

Many commercial and public sector organisations have suspected this for some time, and their attempts to join the online conversation has proved a major boost for the PR industry. Once again, last week, WPP’s Martin Sorrell re-stressed the internet’s role in creating double-digit revenue growth for his PR agencies.

And yet there is still some doubt, even complacency, about how PR professionals can really profit from online comms. There is a suspicion that some consultants have used clients’ hunger to understand the online space as the source of a quick buck, rather than a source of long-term, high-level consultancy.

The chief executive of Edelman UK, long seen as a pioneering agency in the field, admitted this week that even his office’s digital arm had been underperforming. But this week he set a target of £3m revenues from digital PR per annum. This could be as much as 15 per cent of his total revenue: a six-fold increase in two years.

He rightly recognises a long-term shift of societal behaviour in the online space. In other words PR needs to ignore the latest trivia on Facebook, and come up with some meaningful, strategic  solutions.

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