Of the small but growing group of Irish public relations professionals who rank as insiders in the digital world, Edelman’s Piaras Kelly is possibly the most committed.
He is, he admits, ‘‘online 24/7’’. He has been writing a blog at pkellypr.com for nearly six years. He came to Twitter ‘‘a bit late’’, but in fact he has been tweeting daily for nearly two years and has 875 followers.
He walks the walk and has built up a solid following online among media and PR people.
Kelly is quick to point out that he isn’t alone. Since last year, when online PR became mainstream, rather than some niche notion, many PR agencies have been placing serious emphasis on these skills, and on several other dedicated professional bloggers (Eoin Kennedy of Slattery Communications is one).With some 75 per cent of pitches now including a digital element, Edelman is certainly not the only agency to have asked all its staff to undertake a course in online media.
However, it turns out that even Kelly is no zealot when it comes to the latest Big Thing in digital media. He predicts 2010 will be the start of the ‘‘hypecycle’’ for Foursquare, a new social networking tool that enables users to locate their friends in their vicinity. Kelly will not be on this particular bandwagon.
‘‘Brand managers will just get a little bored and start to question return on investment, given that three years will have passed and people will start to realise that there’s a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome associated with social media. At this stage, I’d take a look at what new tools are about and the time commitment involved to get value out of them," said Kelly.
Kelly emphasised that the most important thing to get right with online PR was not so much the platform, but the creative idea.
‘‘Organisations will start this year to get less obsessed about what site they’re on and focus more on whether the content they’re producing or the interactivity, especially around customer service, is engaging."
He doesn’t overplay the role of PR people in managing the online space for clients. Companies themselves are best equipped to use whatever online tools suit them, he said.
‘‘There’s no point in paying someone per hour to manage a Twitter account, especially when you consider that there’s the back and forth with the client that would go along with it.
‘‘Granted, there will be times when an internal team doesn’t have the capacity to manage it itself, but for the most part, I would be saying that the client should aspire to own the relationship with its audience."
Here are Kelly’s tips for the top trends in online PR for 2010.
1. Realtime PR
This is going to be a big challenge for PR agencies, in Kelly’s view. ‘‘We held an event for members of online communities this year," he said.
‘‘About half way through it, I got a call from someone in the US asking what was going on, as people within the same organisation saw tweets originating from people in attendance.
‘‘It wasn’t an issue, but it was a real eye opener that the world has got that bit smaller because of social media."
Kelly noted that fast food chain KFC had to pull an advertisement in Australia because of negative feedback from people in the US who had viewed it online and started to campaign actively against it.
‘‘There is an interesting trend starting to happen, primarily thanks to Twitter, where people are starting to record every waking moment. It seems extremely banal, but the data could actually be quite useful," said Kelly.
Nike has been using this model for its Nike Plus device.
Runners can record their workout data, upload it to the Nike device and track it over time, comparing their own performance to that of other runners.
‘‘Imagine how that could be employed from a financial services perspective," said Kelly.
‘‘Granted, there are privacy issues but, at the very least, if a bank offered you a service where you could analyse your spending patterns and compare them to a similar customer segment, it could help you to become more financially responsible."
3. Location-based services
These are services that give you information about your immediate environs. Foursquare is one of these, but is more a social tool. However, Kelly cited as a more exciting example of this sort of service, daft.ie’s new iPhone app, which shows you on a map what properties are available in the area around you.
This could be very useful for househunters who come across an area they love but don’t know well.
4 Augmented reality
This is set to be a big buzzword in 2010.
Similar to location-based services, augmented reality can be employed on a mobile phone to analyse the area around you, Kelly said.
A recent British iPhone app shows you where the nearest Tube station is. ‘‘It’s an obvious one for Dublin Bus to develop."
5. Digital as a segmentation tool
Companies are starting to develop products that will set them apart in the online world.
Twitter can be used as a customer service too, for example, and many telecoms companies are already employing it. ‘‘Companies need to take a step back and examine the behaviour associated with any social media channel and understand how people are using it," said Kelly.
‘‘No matter what a company ends up using – Twitter, blogs, Bebo, etc – if it’s not prepared to engage with people on these channels, then nine times out of ten it is doomed to fail."
SOURCE: The Post.Ie