CIPRA Talk in Beijing ...


I spoke at the annual CIPRA conference last month in Beijing.

Think of CIPRA (Chinese International Public Relations Association) as China’s version of PRSA with a government relations dimension. Special thanks to Mr. Zhao Dali, CIPRA’s vice chairman and secretary general, who extended the invitation to me to share my perspective.

The title of my talk —

“Rethinking Global PR: The Blurring Line Between Traditional PR and Digital Marketing”

After wrestling with writer’s block – still smarting  from a half nelson – I found the perfect springboard into the presentation:

Google search box and SEO

There’s one common action that virtually every buyer around the world takes. It doesn’t matter whether the individual is looking for semiconductors, office chairs or a new haircut, most will conduct some form of online due diligence through search.

Our paid brethren woke up to this opportunity some time ago with SEO consultancies propagating like a chemical experiment gone wrong.

This ability to target qualified buyers has given Google a license to print money. Google now generates more than $10 billion in revenue from AdWords or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

In short, paid search is a BDD.

Webster definition of BDD

On the organic search side – the action of plugging a word or phrase into a search engine and receiving listings that are NOT paid for – these same SEO consultancies learned how to work the system to pick up incremental revenue. Because the Google search algorithm favored the technical side over content, they could help their clients get served up in organic search results when they didn’t necessarily have the best content or even relevant content.

Equally revealing, SEO consultancies bring little if any expertise to the table in the way of editorial content. That’s why the paid link-building biz exploded in value. For a price, the SEO consultancies again could trick the system, buying links out of Bangalore and Kiev as a shortcut to developing quality content that prompts actual people to link. That’s how a CRM software company ends up with backlinks from sites like

Talk about a sleazy business. I half expected to be accosted in Times Square by a guy in a trench coat.

Backlinks & organic search, SEO strategy

But the jig is up or will be over time if Google has its way.

With the launch of its Hummingbird update last year, Google sent the strongest message yet that it intends to crack down on those conducting unsavory acts to game organic search.

That’s the single greatest digital opportunity for the PR industry.

With the organic search playing field increasingly tilting toward high-quality content – defining “high quality” as useful, educational, insightful or amusing – PR sits in the perfect position to capitalize. Of course, this assumes PR can create high-quality content.

That’s what I spoke about at the CIPRA conference.

Side note: The 2014 CIPRA conference attracted a lively audience of around 300 attendees. Those managing the event left nothing to chance which meant including an energy drink in each attendee’s bag of information. In kicking off my talk, I encouraged those who hadn’t consumed their drink to do so now.

Lou Hoffman at CIPRA Conference on PR Digital and storytelling opportunities



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