When did PR firms become digital marketing firms?
July 27, 2011 2 Comments
The other day I was hanging out with a friend of mine who oversees all video production for a large public relations firm. He was telling me about new project that involved creating dozens of videos and photos and weaving them together into a mosaic on a microsite. It all sounded pretty cool and not unlike ideas I have pitched to my clients before. So I asked him “Who’s building the site for you guys?” and he replied “We are. We build everything in-house for our clients.”
Just a few days after that conversation I was in the office of a creative director and we were talking about one of the accounts she was working on and what they were doing in social media. She mentioned how the PR firm they were working with was managing the brands Twitter account, Facebook page and all blogger outreach. They had effectively taken over the social media piece of the account.
It didn’t use to be this way. PR and marketing used to have a distinct line. PR used to be in charge of media relations. They would issue press releases, get brands mentioned in publications and on TV, secure product placement with influential editors and celebs and run events and promotions that would get the public talking about the product, movie, book, or whatever you were trying to promote. And the marketing agency would develop advertising campaigns, build websites, etc.
It seems that as social media has taken on an ever more important role in our lives, and turned ordinary people (such as yours truly) into media channels it has become harder to determine who owns the relationship. Is talking to bloggers and getting them to promote your product marketing? It really sounds like PR. Is talking directly to consumers via Facebook or Twitter advetising? Is it PR? It gets hard to tell. It used to be that advertising agencies owned the “creative” side of marketing – not to say that people in PR aren’t creative, in fact PR folks have to be both account and creative all rolled into one – and PR teams handled media outreach, crisis communication, and speaking for the brand to the public (outside of ads).
Social media has really flipped this all on its head. I think that brands are still trying to figure it out themselves as they look to cut costs, consolidate billings, and reduce the number of agencies involved in the work. And the agencies themselves (both PR and advertising) are fighting out for a bigger piece of the pie. Is there going to be a push towards generality? Over the last few years speciality shops have been the hot thing. A social agency, an events company, every niche has its players. Perhaps we need to stop defining what we do in such narrow terms and be about communicating with people. Whether they are editors of huge magazines or people on the street the goal should be the same, right?
If our job is truly about getting people to engage with our brand then we should be able to do it across different media.