When It Comes to Marketing and PR, the Web Rules

February 10, 2008
The companies that want to sell you HR products and services say that in 2008, they’ll use more online strategies in their PR and marketing than they did in 2007.

    A survey by Capitola, California-based HR Marketer found that Web 2.0 tactics, such as online pay-per-click advertising, blogging, podcasting and press releases, will be used for the first time this year by about one-fourth of the smaller suppliers to generate leads. But larger vendors, which are those with $50 million or more in annual revenue, "remain laggards," the report says.

    That trend reflects an overall movement by HR suppliers to expand all types of marketing and public relations activities. Still, there remain challenges to vendors, who reported that after lead generation, their biggest marketing and public relations hurdles were search engine optimization and Web 2.0 technologies.

    Other findings were:
A majority of suppliers plan to increase their budgets this year for search engine optimization, the practice of a company giving search engines like Google coding and key words for its Web site that will lead customers using the search engines to the site. Other budget increases have been slated for direct e-mail marketing and white-paper publishing to help improve access to customers. The report notes that white papers are seen as effective components of direct e-mails as marketing tools. Meanwhile, blogging, while not a major line item on most budgets, is gaining a large role in marketing for many suppliers.

    Nearly half of HR and employee benefit suppliers contract with an outside public relations or marketing firm, and only 15 percent reported they were not satisfied with their contractors’ work. Sixty-one percent using an outside firm pay a monthly retainer, and 28 percent pay $5,000 or more.However, 33 percent of the large suppliers were not satisfied with outside marketers. A surprising finding was that 51 percent of all suppliers do not send any press releases via a wire service, and 64 percent don’t optimize their releases for better search results.

    The surprise comes because a search-optimized press release directly affects a supplier’s Web site traffic, search engine rankings, brand recognition and sales leads, all of which are critical metrics in measuring the effectiveness of marketing and PR. It also comes as a surprise because the survey shows 82 percent of respondents said their marketing department manages the company’s PR. "Marketing should know better. Right?" concludes HR Marketer.

    Twelve percent of suppliers who invested in print advertising in 2007 don’t plan on using it this year. In addition, 16 percent of suppliers reported intentions of cutting this year's print advertising budgets. Print advertising was just one activity that suppliers said was important but would be cut if budgets were reduced. The others deemed expendable in budget cuts were online banner or display advertising, sponsored analyst research, print direct marketing and trade show exhibiting. Nevertheless, the report notes, "While print advertising continues to decline and online advertising closes the divide, print still leads by billions in revenue."

    The best ways to track the effectiveness of suppliers’ marketing efforts to the human resources industry, besides actual sales, include the metrics of sales leads, Web site traffic and brand recognition, the study notes. Others are search engine rankings and online media visibility.

    All such metrics tend to score well when sales and marketing efforts are working, "but it all starts with online visibility," the study notes.

    In a separate survey of human resources buyers, HR Marketer found that 41.2 percent of HR professionals go to the Internet to search for products and services. That was second only to asking a peer, leading HR Marketer’s report to conclude that "the importance of an online presence is growing every day."