4 key secrets of pitching social media

Setting the information free: A time to reveal and revel.

Back in the 1960s, San Francisco was the hub of a libertarian counterculture whose ideologies included free love, experimentation with drugs and the rejection of materialism. The hippie subculture spawned some truly historic things, including the Summer of Love and Woodstock.

And the Internet.

The original concept of the Web, and of social media, was a leveler—a tool to empower ordinary people to gain access to knowledge and to share it with others. The Well, the first-ever social network and the forerunner of the likes of Facebook, was formed in the 1980s by the ex-lead singer of the Woodstock-performing Grateful Dead and was infused with an “anything goes” attitude to “set information free.”

Fast-forward 30 years, however, and we find that digital agencies are scrapping with PR agencies for the right to “own” marketing on the social Web, each jealously guarding the secrets of what they pitch to clients and how they pitch it, and each firmly believing that their process-driven or content-driven approach is the best. Well, I’m about to reveal those secrets.

Several months back I won a social media pitch, and, having built a relationship with the marketing manager, I asked if it would be possible to see the proposals from all five other pitching agencies. I was delighted when a USB stick was placed in my grubby mitts and have since reveled in the secrets this small device has made me privy to. In the true hippie spirit of The Well, I’m going to share four of them with you for the benefit of all.

Secret 1: There are big differences between the way PR agencies and digital agencies pitch social media.

No secret in itself, maybe, but do you know what those differences are? PR agencies focus more on adding value to the social Web through content, and on generating the most inventive and engaging content they can. Digital agencies focus more on the delivery of content, and ensuring that the social Web is touched in as many places as possible. Clearly, the most effective campaigns combine both approaches. Demonstrate this well in a pitch, and you’re onto a winner.

Secret 2: Pay attention to search.

Digital agencies love search marketing. They live and breathe keywords and Google algorithms and SERPS. In a proposal, this stuff looks impressive—we all love a good statistic, right? PR agencies’ proposals are typically barren of the word “search” and ignore the valuable affect that their content-led approach can have; organic listings are viewed almost as a by-product of the creative process. Incorporating search marketing into a proposal keeps things rounded.

Secret 3: Be creative.

Conversely, PR agencies love creative ideas. In stark contrast to digital proposals, PR proposals are packed full of concepts and exciting content ideas; ways to generate coverage. Digital agencies tend to overlook this facet in proposals in favor of the mechanics of how they’ll implement their plans. Digital proposals talk about “user journeys,” “eye-tracking,” “information architecture” and “reverse engineered competition.” PR agencies talk about the fun stuff. One approach is pragmatic, the other is engaging and social.

Secret 4: Balance is key.

I was totally amazed at the sheer diversity within the five proposals I base these learnings on. Some focused on social media optimization, placement of SEO articles and the relevance of landing pages, whereas others ignored these completely in favor of creative campaign ideas on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. It would be fair to say that not one of the six proposals (including my own) really hit the nail on the head in terms of covering all ground. So whether you’re a digital agency or a PR agency, aim for balance if you want to win that pitch.

Paul Sutton is the head of digital PR at Bottle PR. He blogs at Tribalboogie.

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