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Public Relations Agencies Explore Digital Market

Companies on the Business Journal’s list of Public Relations firms have embraced digital PR in different ways, finding that success requires an approach that blurs the lines between PR, marketing, advertising and branding. For Barcelona Enterprises in Woodland Hills, the No. 3 firm on the Business Journal’s list, “it all revolves around video,” said Chief Executive Alan Semsar. “About 80 to 90 percent of our time is spent on that.” Barcelona’s clientele includes luxury brands such as restaurant network Katsu-ya Group, which has restaurants in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Encino and Northridge; vehicle manufacturer Maserati, which has dealerships in Van Nuys and Thousand Oaks; and fashion companies Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo. Another client is ABM Medical, a cosmetic laser clinic in Woodland Hills, for which Barcelona recently created video to market a new pain-free method of fat reduction. For high-brow clients like these, video content is desirable because it allows marketers to communicate more information and emotion than is possible with static images or text. Instagram is Barcelona’s biggest platform. “You can sell a whole story. You can tell people what you want them to buy,” Semsar explained. For Moorpark-based Kahn Media, the No. 1 firm on the Business Journal’s list, video has proven effective as a revenue driver for events. “If you can show somebody what they will experience at an event, that’s powerful,” said Dan Kahn, chief executive. He noted a distinct trend to short form, low-budget video content that lets viewers feel like they’re at the scene. Kahn Media specializes in automotive PR, serving clients like the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard and suspension brand Icon. The company also has accounts with luxury brands including Rolex Watch USA, Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel and Geary’s boutique in Beverly Hills. Brands such as Rolex and Quail require “very traditional PR,” said Kahn. Others request “social (media), public relations, and digital marketing.” North American AMA motorcycle road racing series MotoAmerica expanded its account with Kahn last year to include social media marketing to generate interest in the spring race season. That campaign resulted in “the highest ticket sales they’ve ever had since the inception of the series,” said Kahn. Impressions economy For Barcelona Enterprises and its clients, Semsar said the focus has shifted away from measuring sales. Equally as valuable in the marketing world today are impressions, or how much engagement a social media post can draw in the form of likes, comments or shares. “Nobody is really aware of any (return on investment),” Semsar said. This perspective is colored by the products sold by Barcelona Enterprises’ clients. Things like cars and expensive fashion pieces are not quick purchases, Semsar said. Customers perform research, consider alternatives and wait for the right time to buy — and when they do, it’s rarely online. That makes it difficult to track how many sales were driven by an Instagram video, so brand awareness becomes the prime objective. Kahn said this is not the case for his clients: “if that’s not driving econ, who cares?” Melissa Elsner, director of online operations at Cision’s media strategy division MultiVu, stipulated that it all depends on what the client wants to get from a campaign. “If your goal is brand awareness, then the bottom line is the engagement you’re getting online. However, if conversion (to sales) is what you’re going for, obviously you have to track that with tools that can track buyers from where they found you to shopping carts. If you don’t have that data, and you can’t show the path a person takes, I don’t think (impressions are) very valuable,” she said. Influencer marketing One way to generate buzz for a client is to get an endorsement from a famous social media personality or influencer. Kahn and Semsar both said their firms have invested into this tactic. Marketing Maven Public Relations Inc. in Camarillo, the No. 8 firm on the Business Journal’s list, has been particularly successful with influencer marketing, according to Chief Executive Lindsey Carnett. In 2017, the firm won an Impact Award for a social media campaign to promote a workout product for Allstar Products Group. The campaign was boosted by trainer Rosalie Brown. Carnett estimated about 15 percent of her business comes from influencer marketing, 20 percent from social media marketing and the remaining 60 percent from traditional PR. But even in traditional PR, the agency embeds video content inside digital press releases. “It’s part of an organic (search engine optimization) strategy because Google ranks video really high,” she said. The firm then uses Google Analytics to show its clients the inbound traffic that results from each release.

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