Last week Everything PR News scrutinized 3 more PR firms at the top of O’Dwyer’s list to establish their relative digital engagement. Sadly, it seems some of the top PR companies still only pay lip service to the online conversation. Broadcasting and listening only for the sound of the cash register is not what any Internet savvy practitioner would consider social media engagement . This week we look at numbers 13, 12, and 11 on this prestigious list of communicators.
To set the record straight, I set out in counting these PR firms down digitally with the expectation of finding, more often than not, the world’s best communicators heavily involved in online networking. Sadly, almost unbelievably, the reverse has actually proven true as a general rule. Claiming digital savvy and awareness is one thing, actually being expert and involved is quite another. Perhaps the economic crisis just made full social engagement unfeasible? It appears many companies set out to engage. Let’s look at three more major PR entities – maybe things get better the closer to the top one gets?
5W Public Relations
Right off the landing at 5WPR, straight over to their Twitter button, and then to it’s associated profile, the impression of this top PR company’s web interaction is full positive. The image below showing a CoTweet graphic from 5W pretty much says it all. A 3 to one ratio of followers to follows, a high influence score, more than broadcast quality tweets – 5W is engaged. Then, every 3 or 4 days 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian posts targeted stories of his own on the corporate blog outreach. Venturing over to his Twitter and other accounts, as the CoTweet mashup reveals too, Torossian takes the business of communicating seriously.
Facebook? Same result, Torossian uses it daily. Let me be honest here, the rest of my assessment may reveal graphic design on 5W’s website that sucks eggs – but if I wanted a firm that could brand or extend my business online – utilize the channels available for whatever initiative – I would have already gone a long way to discovering it – the CEO leads the company into digital engagement – there is not a lot more to say is there? BTW, you can email Ronn directly from the top left of the blog – uh, humm.
Here it is in a nutshell then – I went over the website, it is not a “Jules Verne” cutting edge affair, but what is important is the direct and believable honesty of it – 5W practices what I have preached to 100 businesses with a web presence – “reveal your worth. ” Their CEO immediately labels the company digitally aware to the astute visitor – and their social media dogma is exactingly fortified so:
“Regardless of your industry, 5WPR is a PR agency that can assist in the development and/or management of a multi-faceted social media campaign that is certain to enhance visibility for your brand and further your communications objectives.”
Now the reader of all these PR criticisms can see the light perhaps. “I can believe what Ronn Torossian says, based on what I have seen.” Period, case closed, 5W is a company that my know how to BS, but does not where their brand goes. Digital impression – A+, overall agency impression A. Next.
“RF|Binder Named 2009 Creative Agency of the Year!” Yeeehaa! You know, the first thing I want to see when landing on a communicators website is not a flash countdown (If I have to explain), not a gold award cup, not a 60’s “Mannix” intro (David will laugh when he sees this), but communication that leads the visitor to the core of a brand. Maybe this is what happens when anyone visits Amy Binder and David Finn’s online storefront – a brick and mortar PR entity that just so happens to have a website?
“RF|Binder is an extraordinary group of communications professionals who have deep expertise and a passion for their work.”
You read that correctly, straight from the corporate pages of RF|Binder – people there have Axel Foley (Beverly Hills Cop) deep, deep, deep expertise (watch the video below). The agency already sounds like a bunch of bullshit artists before we even venture out. Well, this extraordinary group has not exactly come up with anything to communicate their firm even knows there is an Internet, let along “deep expertise” in maximizing it. Again, this is on the face of it, at the storefront, where it counts online.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no blog, nothing even associated with being there in a two way conversation – but you can call offices from Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Sao Paolo to New York – at your convenience. Bottom line, they waste my time and yours being online – just throw up the phone numbers for politicians and bankers in case they forget. I should mention their affiliation with Ruder Finn and partners like Media Consulta, but I am here to scrutinize digital branding – this agency flunks with an F, while obviously being tied into the power traditionally B+. That was easy, if painful.
There is no mistaking Coyne PR for an old world traditional “fuddy duddy” like Binder and the like. “In your face” Web 2.0 is the only impression a visitor could get visiting this agency’s landing for the first time. Facebook to full throttle imagery, Coyne PR knows its market. Don’t get me wrong, the site and the impression are not necessarily to my taste – but it is transparently symbolic – these people are highly wired.
My only negatives outside a bit too much flashiness is again, the Holmes Report slash PRWeek, slash PRNews accolade aggrandizements up top and out front – stick em elsewhere. But, being proud of clients from Disney to Goodyear, showing them so prominently, this is a good sign. Navigation wise, initial accessibility, Coyne Exchange blog, YouTube channel, many of the company’s elements are very well defined – but then the obvious strikes the digital savvy seeker – there is no high level operative conversation going on.
Tom Coyne and the other top execs at this firm are as out of reach as the worst of the PR’s in the world. A nice profile of Tom goes a ways visa vi introductions to leadership, but just as Ronn Torossian of 5W is kickin butt and takin names socially, Tom and his staff are the kickees. The long and short for Tom Coyne’s award winning and deserving agency (they really do reach out for the best) can be summer up with this passage from their site:
“The ResultsFirst© process is a proven method that has helped to win awards for many of the nation’s most recognized brands and allows clients to far exceed their objective of connecting with their target consumer in a meaningful manner.”
What I want as a potential Coyne PR client is instant accessibility to Tom Coyne. Who does he think is going to spam him? Is this not part of the game? A CEO too important to take a personal email from Sean Connery – without agents having to look for numbers – is just too important to rely on for PR. Just my mirror on the thoughts of many. Coyne could be the best, but their digital brand does not reflect a “deep, deep, deep” sincerity for online engagement. I still cannot believe someone at RF|Binde came up with that line! Coyne PR only goes three fourths of the distance – grade B, but anyone can see they are A class communicators.
Handle With Caution
Why do we attach so much importance to appearances? Does it really matter if your prospective PR firm actually “does” social networking, or need they only know “how to” when the time comes? What does a potential customer take away from a website that “claims” a firm is expert at something, that they obviously could care less about? Is a lie, in the end, indicative of a business’ intentions?
I will leave answering these questions to the reader, but any imbecile knows the answers. For the PR exec out there, missing the boat where “the conversation” is, basically boils down to what my old friend Brian Solis would call “lost opportunity costs.” Being social costs alot, but the benefits can be monetized in multiples.
We see ourselves as more consumer advocates than a traditional PR firm these days. We do not even accept traditional clients any more. The problem for us is an idealistic one believe it or not. Companies selling a bill of goods, being mediocre with adequate resources, doing less than their best – this is a splinter in the eye of the business community. For anyone who has endeavored with virtually no resources – multi million dollar businesses offering puny value, spinning BS, it’s simply unacceptable.
Look at it this way – the next time your business approaches someone only to get the cold shoulder, blame it on the BS artist that just left their door. So much for your sincere intentions and business outreach. The tough tale on all this is, some PR firms should have “handle with caution” stamped on their websites.