The Gap
What comes first the ranking or the brand?

The Interview with Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder and President of Portent Interactive, a Seattle based Interactive Agency that provides Search Engine Marketing, web design and web application development services to a broad range of clients. I used to work for Ian when I lived in Seattle, and he and I came up with the body of ideas around the concept of Conversation Marketing (Ian coined the phrase), Ian is growing a blog around this concept, as well, at

Recently to celebrate my 150th posting on PR Communications I decided to start interviewing marketing and business professional about the topics of PR, Marketing and the Internet. Here is the result of my first interview with Ian.

John: How has the Internet changed PR?

Ian: The Internet has melded PR and marketing - it blurs the divisions between the two. In traditional media, you could do something, say, in print and not have it profoundly affect your other marketing/PR initiatives. Not so on the web. Everything you do on the Internet has PR, Marketing and Search engine marketing consequences. Take search marketing as an example: SEO is more than just getting a high rank - it's about getting a high rank for the right terms. If I get my firm a #1 rank for 'internet marketing', that's great. But if I get a #1 rank for 'HTML programming', which seems great, I actually force Portent into the wrong niche. It's a very, very subtle game. Google bombing is an excellent, glaring example of this phenomenon: Geeks manipulate Google results by generating thousands of incoming links to a web site with a specific term. That's why 'miserable failure' brings up the George Bush page on Political and emotional impressions aside, this search result is not an accurate picture of what the public thinks about George Bush. But the act of placing a few links completely skews Google's perception of the subject matter.

John: Do you have a corporate example?

Ian: I work with data mining and statistics software company. They're perceived as a statistics company, though, which hurts sales of data mining software. They are totally wedged in one category in the marketplace.

We've gotten them top rank for data mining-related terms. But that hasn't necessarily translated into a proportionate increase in traffic.

Why? Because their brand hasn't caught up with the search result, so our PR effort, which garnered good results, still requires a major marketing effort. The two are totally interdependent.

John: That is very interesting; you are saying that although I might get a high ranking on Google that does not mean I am going to getting a resulting increase in traffic.

Ian: Yes. Search 'marketing' is really PR. You're getting a media resource to talk about you, independent of paid advertising. But it has a strong marketing element, too, so you have to tie it all together: Brand, marketing and PR all have to be in synch. You have to keep a close, constant eye on how you're perceived on the web. If you look at a particular web site you perceive that website and company in three ways. One, the company's perception of itself. Two, secondary indicators of authority, like Google PageRank, referrals from friends or other sites' reviews of the corporate site. And lastly, the company's rank in search results. Getting 1 out of 3 is ineffective. Getting 2 out of 3 can work. Getting 3 out of 3 is a home run.

John: How relevant is brand and traditional PR today?

Ian: Even today, the strength of brand is going to carry you past the weakness of PR. Again, the web illustrates this: Do you have to search on Google to find Nike? No. But the smaller players can benefit tremendously from smart search PR and a consistent effort. And traditional PR, channeled through e-mail and direct contact will also reach out to journalists and build a list of people who will know your company, your idea, story and check in with you on a regular basis.

John: Lastly, what have you been thinking about on marketing recently?

Ian: I've been thinking a lot about the rate at which marketing campaigns recycle these days. A marketing campaign starts when you discover an idea or product and assign a value to it. Then you introduce it, and if you're successful, your audience identifies you, and only you, with the resource you offer. Then other folks come and copy you, and your product or resource becomes a commodity. The objective has always been to stay in the Identification phase - that's where the best loyalty and profitability are. Today, the Internet has accelerated the cycle. But it also offers an opportunity: Because you can get feedback almost instantly through site traffic reports, real-time sales reports and the like, you can continuously adjust your product, marketing and PR and stretch Identification out as long as possible. Smaller companies are already very good at this - it's easier for them to turn on a dime.

John: You say that smaller companies have an advantage, why, and can you think of examples of larger companies that are fast on their feet?

Ian: Really large companies have a minimum overhead for decision making. There are definitely exceptions, and those exceptions are the real winners these days: Microsoft is certainly one. Apple is another. But the smaller companies are necessarily faster - it's a survival tactic.

John: Thanks Ian, I really appreciate you taking the time out to answer my questions for PR Communciations.