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How We Do Digital Differently At Propaganda

James Winfield

Digital Director

2 December 2022

Propaganda's Digital Director James Winfield explains some of the ways we do Digital differently.

Propaganda isn’t like any other agency. If you’ve managed to catch any of the recent videos shared on LinkedIn by our Chairman, Julian Kynaston, you’ll have had a flavour of what sets us apart from many others.

It’s not just that we’re the only Brand Consultancy accredited by the MCA, or that we don’t pitch, or that you won’t find a sales team here aggressively targeted to push a pre-defined shopping list of services to whichever sector they have chosen to target this quarter, but we’re also very different in the way we have structured our digital team and how we deploy our digital services.

Our unique approach was born from my experience of having worked for a handful of agencies in the Northwest, before a 10-year stint in-house. Seeing the sector from both sides, I knew what worked, what didn’t work, and how and where best to prioritise digital energies.

DON’T BUY SEO. INVEST IN BRAND.

My first “issue” was with SEO as a channel. Where to start?

There’s so much wrong with this channel, not least the time, energy, debate, events and MONEY that’s spent strategising, theorising and focusing on it in isolation. Highly unpredictable, it’s a channel where you are completely at the hands of a private business who, at the drop of a hat, can change the algorithm and completely decimate (or, if you’re lucky, improve) your organic rankings, regardless of how much “amazing” SEO work you’ve done.

Many client-side marketing managers think they must allocate budget to SEO. Quite simply, you don’t. I’m not saying that the Organic search channel should be ignored, far from it. Afterall, the traffic is free. What I am saying is that by structuring your digital resource and allocating your budget intelligently, you’ll end up “doing” SEO without having to do SEO.

What do I mean by this? Well, SEO comprises of on-site and off-site – the more friendly way of saying ‘link building’.

With regard to on-site, our view is that as long as you build your site with SEO in mind, incorporate the necessary technical considerations upfront and you supplement this with ongoing website management that adheres to SEO standards, then the bulk of on-site should be covered – or, at the very least, enough that you’ve balanced time spent with value gained.

So what do I mean by SEO standards? Things like ensuring your meta data is optimised, regularly updating and structuring content in the right way, naming images correctly, populating your alt tags, utilising canonical tags, and updating and submitting a site map for example.

If you then deploy a PR strategy, which in this era, should incorporate online PR as standard, and ensure it’s meshed with your brand and non-brand Organic objectives, then you’ll achieve link building requirements in a natural and appropriate way – as it should be!

We’ve been approached by many start-up brands who having sought some initial guidance, have been advised that when setting up their D2C channel they HAVE to invest in SEO. Let’s imagine this is a new clothing brand. No matter how many months tick by (and we’ve all heard the SEO sector favourite – “it’ll take 6 months to see the benefit”) realistically, the start-up is not going to end up outranking the likes of ASOS and Next for the term “men’s t-shirts”. It is however quite likely that if a good brand name has been chosen and the corresponding domain purchased that the business will end up ranking in position 1 for its brand search.

Therefore, my point is, could those 6 months of SEO expenditure have been better spent investing in building brand awareness of the new brand? CPCs will be lower in the Paid channel, you’ll likely rank in position 1 organically and you have the opportunity to build early lasting relationships with your target audience that could win their hearts and minds for years to come, so the next time they’re in the market for that new t-shirt they choose to search for you and not just “men’s t-shirts”.

You certainly don’t need the six months of separate budget line expenditure when two of the other things you should be doing anyway would likely achieve the same outcome.

STOP THINKING ORGANIC VS. PAID.

The next challenge to conquer within the digital landscape was the separation of Paid and Organic Social. Historically, Organic Social sat within the PR/Communications sphere, while Paid Social had been viewed as “just another media placement” or bolted on to traditional PPC teams – people who are comfortable with the granular and scientific approach to the Google Ads platform, but less so when it comes to the “Wild West” Facebook Ads Manager platform.

This separation between Paid and Organic social is simply wrong. To service a Social Media channel like this, often with entirely different agencies assuming control of the two parts, results in inefficient execution of the channel and prevents growth.

The truth is that Paid and Organic Social are so intrinsically linked with one another, that without investing in one, uniquely skilled team to oversee both sides, it’s nigh on impossible to expect to achieve the most effective results. Both channels can and should be deployed, working hand in hand throughout the full funnel. One supports the other and vice versa.

MOST AGENCY’S PRICING MODELS AREN’T FIT FOR PURPOSE

My final bug bear was with the commercial model that most performance media agencies deploy: management fees based on percentage of media spend. This model doesn’t just breed the wrong energy, it’s down-right unfair, and serves no other purpose than to encourage the agency to spend more – what if that’s not in the best interest of the overall channel mix? Time and time again, I saw brands reaching peak trading periods such as Black Friday, where their seasonal performance would increase say 5, 10 or 15 times versus “regular” months, and then with no more impact on the agency’s resource and for essentially carrying out the same work as any other month, their fee increased 5, 10 or 15 times. This didn’t make sense to me. Something needed to change, so I chose for our performance marketing fee structure to be based purely on the time it takes to manage the account effectively.