Marketing budgets are tight, very tight in fact. It’s not, therefore, uncommon for CMOs to put aside a portion of their budget and have the agencies pitch their best ideas to get a share of that pot. When it comes to PR, the idea de jour is to create some program that utilizes social media or digital in some way. This is actually pretty sensible for many situations BUT the challenge comes when you have to justify that spend versus other, more traditional areas of marketing. Let’s say you propose creating a vertical social network on Grouply for people that love mountain biking. It’s a pretty targeted program and you could measure the success based on how many people join the network and how many actively engage with the community. Great idea if your client is somehow connected to this community. You could suggest a blogger relations program to address certain misconceptions about your clients product. Again, great as in this instance you can measure how the bloggers now talk about your clients products. However, the challenge here is how does the client know that spending money on a social media program that would be a better use of his or her budget than say placing a piece in a trade publication? The end metrics are very different and not easy to compare unless you’re very lucky and the client only does one form of marketing at activity at a time.
Right now some clients are leaping in to social media/digital because they inherently know it is a good way to spend money and they have a good enough reputation within their company/they are brave enough to deal with the consequences. However, for all the ones that are doing this, there are still plenty that aren’t. By this I don’t mean that they aren’t spending money on social media but rather that they are not spending as much as they could. Clients still default to the tried and trusted that is easier to justify. And frankly I don’t really blame them. Having failed as an industry to convince our clients that they have to use measurement tools for every campaign, I fear we are about to repeat the mistake with digital. If we do we will lose a lot more than the pots of money CMOs are putting aside right now. We will have lost the opportunity to make PR truly the new advertising and that would be a real shame.