Public Relations Tactics

10 digital marketing mistakes you are making right now

May 31, 2011

Our profession is facing both an opportunity and a problem. Social media has presented us with a bountiful increase of new business opportunities, but many PR professionals have fallen into the trap of making the same mistakes online.

Unfortunately, we are so dazzled by the short-term social media dollars that we’re missing the long-term promise of digital marketing. Do you think clients and prospects will still pay you to populate a Twitter stream in two years?
Don’t be shortsighted. Instead, think about how to extend your strategies into a broader marketing universe.  Here’s a list of the common mistakes and how to fix them:

  • You think social equals digital. Clients may be asking for a Facebook strategy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s what they need. Use insights you gathered from online monitoring to develop a big-picture perspective. Do they need to reaffirm their commitment to a specific audience? Should they focus on a particular product to differentiate themselves?

    Once your marketing objective is in place, determine online opportunities for you to stand out. It may be that developing an e-book would help  more than daily Facebook updates.
  • You measure friends, not conversions. You already know that the number of followers or friends doesn’t really matter. Instead, our job is to create and then deepen relationships. In other words, our job is to convert.

    But how much time are you or your firm spending to measure those conversions? Do you have a standard methodology?  You can start with Google Analytics goals, but you’ll need to go further — from pulling email click-throughs to identifying the most popular audience entry points to integrating offline activities.
  • You distribute the same content everywhere. When you talk to your friends, do you repeat the same conversation again and again? I didn’t think so. Spend more time upfront developing audience personas that remind your clients of their different segment goals. Perhaps they speak to millennials on Quora, connect with Gen X on YouTube and reach boomers via a gated website community.
  • You forget to remind clients about their expanded marketing opportunities. Our profession works at a frenzied pace. It’s too easy to become reactive, just trying to keep up with our social media task list. Remember:  We are counselors first and technicians second.

    So how do you become an effective counselor? You have to stay on top of trends, constantly thinking about how the latest development impacts your client base. Do not skimp on your education — you ultimately hurt more than just yourself.
  • You outsource too much — or too little. I know of several major PR firms who outsource most of their work. Personally, I’d be uncomfortable if I wasn’t directly involved in gathering the intelligence that fuels the digital marketing program.

    On the other hand, you have to push yourself to broaden your services and stay relevant. Bring in outside professionals to challenge your thinking or to help execute a must-win program element such as a new smartphone app.
  • You don’t have a handle on how mobile trends impact your client’s audience segments. This is important, but I see many professionals who are still confused on this point, particularly my B2B brethren. Follow this quick rule of thumb from Christopher Penn, vice president of strategy and innovation at the email marketing company Blue Sky Factory, on analyzing your incoming mobile traffic:
    – If it’s 1 percent of total traffic to your website, then you need to start thinking about a mobile strategy.
    – If it’s 10 percent, then you need to be turning on your mobile strategy.
    – If it’s 25 percent, then your mobile strategy should be in full swing or you are losing business.
  • You are focusing on too few social media sites. Perhaps you are enjoying the results of your social labor.  The client has an incredible LinkedIn presence and you have the conversions to prove it. Not good enough.
    Don’t make yourself vulnerable to outside forces of audience boredom, industry cannibalization or privacy meltdowns. Digital success requires multiple online outposts, rich content marketing and a superior home base. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you do have to be more than just in one place.
  • Your marketing content is stuck in a time warp. I’ve had more than one client struggle with this challenge. The white paper is not going to be that helpful anymore. Show clients examples of compelling videos, blog rants/raves and clever infographics. If you learn what inspires them, then you are much more likely to get them to explore a broader marketing strategy.
  • You don’t know how to play nicely with others. I recently conducted a study for TAAN and the Worldcom Public Relations Group on how the advertising and PR professions were approaching social media opportunities. My conclusion was that we could all make more money if we’d just acknowledge that we have different strengths, and decide how we could collaborate better. If you have a client who also uses an ad agency, then why not approach him or her and brainstorm how you can better serve a client together? Or invite an agency to joint-pitch your next new business lead. I bet you’ll build — not lose — budget in the end.
  • You don’t use failure to excite your clients. When I started my career, we had many discussions about managing client expectations and avoiding failure. But what if you embraced failure instead? Digital marketing allows you to experiment for little money with little time.  Tell your clients that they need at least one failure per quarter. Failures allow you to better define audience needs and dislikes — and that’s arguably the key to developing extraordinary success.

Maybe you feel confident that you’ve avoided these mistakes. Good job — but there’s still work to do.
You need to help others understand how to approach social media as well. Our profession needs teachers and mentors to help us reach our full potential. Identify some promising pupils — not just young folks, but colleagues at any stage of their career — and help them evolve.  We owe that to each other.

Elizabeth Sosnow
Elizabeth Sosnow is a managing director and leader of digital activities at BlissPR New York, where she develops and oversees strategy implementation for clients, and leads blogger outreach and social network analysis.


Debra Gaynor says:

Excellent post, Elizabeth. I always learn something new from you.

June 3, 2011

Jason Mollica says:

Could not agree more with focusing on too few sites, Elizabeth. Why not take a broad brush approach, then pare down to what you really need to use? It's important to think of every option in when marketing a product, business, or person. Thanks for the great post!

June 7, 2011

Elizabeth Sosnow says:

@Debra: thanks my friend, the feeling is entirely mutual! @Jason that's a great point re: paring down. I had a meeting today where I spent time encouraging my client to start excluding wisely - it's hard but satisfying.

June 7, 2011

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