Digital PR – is PPC/Online advertising PR? and why do PR Agencies offer the service?

I attended an interesting PRCA event last night (Wednesday 10th) on the publication of some research into the world of digital PR. The results will be published in their entirety today (here’s a link), but some top level findings included 44% of organisations only spend 1-10% of their PR budget on digital and 62% expect to see this increase in the next 12 months (I’m typing this from notes, so until I double check my notes I wouldn’t take this as gospel).

As I said, it was a decent debate, but I did feel that the panel could have done with some in-house representation (they were all agency types). But one piece of evidence – and the subsequent discussion – caught my eye and thoughts.

It was around PPC and paid content. There was a large difference between the services that agencies were offering – in this case PPC/online advertising, and the needs of in-house types (see the picture of a full graph). The panel suggested this was due to in-house professionals not being aware of all the offers and services from PR agencies. But I’m not so sure. Surely PPC and online advertising is (by definition) marketing, not PR? And a lot of in-house PR/Coms teams are separate to the marketing teams? (Obviously, I’m generalising as there are more ‘marcoms’ professionals these days, but would they identify as ‘PR’ and manage the PR agency??)

I wonder if the industry (PR industry) – particularly the agencies – are simply embarking on a land grab of a lucrative market?? They see this as an area that kinda fits with general PR and comms and want a slice of it.

Obviously, a great PR campaign includes PPC. But it also includes advertising, events, photography and often new visuals – yet PR agencies don’t claim to be experts in advertising, events or visual design – they outsource it to partners/other agencies (of course some of the larger agencies do in fact have all these skills under the same roof – but most don’t). Can the same also be argued for SEO?

As one of the panellists said “focus on what we’re good at – story telling”.

I’ve actually pretty unsure about this one, maybe paid/PPC really does sit under PR, I don’t know, but I’m keen to find out, so do let me know your thoughts.

Here’s a link to the full report –


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