Social media to eat traditional marketing and PR budgets in 2009

Today is a sad day, yesterday we heard Woolworths and MFI had been taken into administration and this morning I heard PC World and Currys are another two brands which are struggling in these increasingly difficult times.

It is sad because (for instance) Woolworths is a brand that resonates with most of us – who can forget trialling the Pick N Mix and buying your favourite album/CD from your local store?

The only problem is a strong fondness for a big brand doesn’t stop us from logging on the internet and buying an item from somewhere else and unfortunately that’s what has been happening more recently.

The truth is the recession is going to get rid of many more retailers that have not been performing. Only the strongest will survive and this will mean they will have to market themselves much more wisely.

I have had a number of meetings recently with senior business people and I have noticed a major change in their attitudes and approach to communications. I have even been told by a couple that they are actually shifting the focus of their business/budgets from traditional public relations to social media.

I think this is the start of a huge change we are going to see in our industry. Public relations consultancies will need to address this new found demand quickly or they will risk their budgets being cut or losing out to specialists.

Marketers are shifting the focus because of their budgets for three main reasons:

  1. It’ s cheap
  2. It’s effective
  3. It provides immediate customer feedback

Wendy McAuliffe recently wrote on her blog saying: A recession will force PR consultancies to get their houses in order, and evolve or die. So, in actual fact, a recession could ultimately be a good thing for this industry, separating the quality, digitally-aware practitioners from the run-of-the-mill.”

I have to agree with Wendy, if you have a PR consultancy and you want to stay ahead of the game you must act soon.

Brian Cross also recently blogged about a theory him and a colleague have which is this: New technology + recession/bad economy = massive behavioural changes

It seems these behavioural changes are already afoot.

Posted By Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.



I think we have only really seen the beginning of social media. It’s potential is big. There are just so many technologies / methods of using social media – blogging, Twitter, social networking sites, virals and so on. A blog alone can be used for brand-building, search marketing, customer service, product releases – list is endless.
Blogging costs hardly anything to implement. Same for Twitter. Same for social networking. The important thing is to become an expert in something, being an expert in how to communicate it, being an expert in listening, and planning a social media strategy overall.

Stephen Smith

I agree with what you’re saying here. As an industry we have to offer meaningful digital PR consultancy and not pay lip service to it. I saw some recent research which showed that whilst most agencies claim to offer some form of digital PR service the reality is that very few actually deliver on those services.
My own research showed that the majority of PR’s see the benefit of digital PR and blogger relations but don’t see the distinction in tactics between online and offline PR.
PS – Like the blog, I’ve added you to my blog roll

Chris Norton

@Eamon – thanks for your comments. I agree that we are only at the start of social media but I wouldn’t call people experts as nobody can be an expert in social media. We can only be specialists as social media changes daily. I only have to look at the presentations I was doing 12 months ago to notice that. Brand managers and PROs are all starting to take note of the benefits.
@Stephen there is a certainly a difference between online and offline PR. I also agree that there are lots of companies out there claiming to deliver good digital PR campaigns but very few are actually doing it. I think that is just a case of consultancies seeing where the money is and offering a service in case a client wants it.

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