The Bittersweet, Blurry Line Between PR and Marketing

Social MediaAs a social media junkie enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout of the best practices and trends to see how I can apply it to public relations. As I was researching last week, I was alerted by some Twitter followers that a popular DC company’s Twitter account had thousands of followers, but they only followed one person. One.

Ok, thats a problem, but how are they interacting with their followers? I asked myself. Are they asking customers what they like about the problem? Are they addressing customer service issues? Or are they simply producing 140 characters of canned marketing-speak?

Their tweets told the truth. Almost 90% of the messages were talking about upcoming promotions and places where the product would appear on television. When I did a little searching about the company’s public relations efforts, I was told that a third party was doing a “huge part of their PR” by “sending out a tweet or two everyday.”

At first, I was shocked. How could you call PR sending out a tweet or two a day? It is so much more! However, this example simply highlights the line between PR and marketing and how it has a tendency to blur.

In marketing, success means that your efforts increased product sales. You want to position your product, company, or service in such a way that makes consumers really flock toward what you have to offer. No doubt that social media is a huge part of that effort. However, sometimes social media marketing efforts can be characterized as sending out messages that are more of a pitch instead of a conversation starter.

The ultimate goal for PR is to ENGAGE people, not just shout at them. When it is done well, PR pros can create a conversation by mentioning a few key messages here and there, and seeing who their key influencers are who can keep that discussion going. It means to @ reply to fans of your product/service and ask questions of your audience to solicit real information about their demographic. As Edelman Digital’s SVP David Armano’s said in his interview with Forbes’s Bruce Upbin, engagement is defined through “interactions in a number of different ways, ranging from conversations to transactions.”

The reason the lines get blurry is because marketing and PR pros are using the same tools to have somewhat different, unique outcomes. At last week’s Social Media Club DC Breakfast, Erin Orr (inspired by Chris Brogan) gave this wonderful breakdown on how we should incorporate social media in our day:

For two hours a day on social media – use this formula:

  • 30 minutes listening to your key audiences
  • 1 hour connecting & interacting with those people
  • 30 minutes publishing new content

That said, as marketing and PR professionals, we must make sure we consider social media to be a tool in our workspace, not the product itself. I think we’re missing the delicious satisfaction of a job well done if we only talk about how many times we’ve tweeted instead of capturing the rich conversations had because of our messaging.

Above photo by Flickr user Smemon and featured image by hermansaksono under Creative Commons license

1 Comment

  1. This is a great post every PR and marketing person needs to read.

    Sometimes, I am so struck by organizations/firms and how badly they can miss the core point of social media: it’s not another advertising platform, it’s a tool for engagement. If you think it’s another outlet for you to pitch the same message you’re putting out there via advertising, commercials, etc….you’re doing it wrong.

    The best things my organization (and myself) have taken away from Twitter and other social media tools has been the conversations and connections made to tools, resources, and information. That, in my opinion, is success in the public relations scope, rather than the number of hits we generate on the website or people who donate because of our Twitter presence. Those things will pay out in the long-term because of the relationships we build through these tools. I think any company or org. who thinks a “tweet once or twice a month” (what PR firm is this, anyways?!) will immediately impact their bottom line is asking for disappointment.

Leave a Reply