The battle ground for social media

There’s a lot of conversation going around the blogs I read regularly on which marketing discipline social media will fall under.  PR is trumpeting transparency as its main WMM (weapon of mass marketing); while our advertising brethren are holding up examples of believable marketing as the reason they should be on the top table.

Dave Jones points out a great posting from Doug Walker on “The Clash of PR and Advertising” while Steve Rubel lets us in on the rumblings from inside Edelman’s social media engine.

Shel and Neville had a fascinating interview with Larry Weber, which I have listened to no less than three times and take something great out of each time, where Larry warns PR not to miss another golden opportunity to take the lead in marketing – something Shel and Neville have themselves trumpeted for a long time.

On the other side of the fence bloggers such as Jaffe (congratulations!) and David Armano are putting up some great content justifying advertising/marketing’s role in the revolution.

David Maister points out (on the Doug Walker post) that, despite many PR/Ad agencies being owned by huge “marketing” holding organizations, and despite all the talk of offering integrated campaigns, it comes down a feeling of us against them.

It all comes down to ego.  There are some ridiculously clever, ambitious and talented people working in both industries and neither wants to lose.  The ad guys have been top of the tree for more than fifty years and this represents the first time they face losing their perch (too many metaphors!).

On the other hand, PR guys are sick of seeing the ad agencies spend what we see as our money (PR budgets are usually first to be cut) and see social media as a way of redressing the balance.

It’s not hard to predict where my loyalties lie.  I see advertising as intrusive while PR seeks to strike up conversation.  Advertising buys loyalty; PR earns it.  Advertising screams at you a few meters from your face; PR whispers in your ear.  Advertising tries to bulldoze you into submission; PR gives you a gentle nudge in the right direction.

And because PR is a subtler discipline, it’s had to take the back seat.  But now marketing is about forming relationships, bonds, community and to continue the driving analogy, because we seek to form conversations between clients their customers, PR is now in the driving seat.

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5 Responses to The battle ground for social media

  1. It does seem like there’s a lot of us v them out there, doesn’t it? Too bad *all* of us can’t seem to just examine clients’ (or our employer’s) needs, and then recommend a set of tactics for the strategies to meet those needs – -whether or not we are experts in the tactics.

    I would think that most in communications and marketing have an understanding of the different disciplines — enough so to know what may work best for clients/employers, depending on the needs.

    Too me, this seems so simple.

    But, then when you get human nature, insecurity, job security and profits involved, it’s not so simple.

  2. Ed,
    You are absolutely bang on. PR practitioners have for years been consumed in preparing for the conversation – be it with the key media contact or the stakeholder. We know that we must understand our audience and communicate in terms that are meaningful to them. And the we LISTEN. Advertising counts GRPs and impressions.
    PR has a definite advantage in the era of social media.

  3. Ed Lee says:

    And thanks to “s.evans” for voting this article onto “” as one of the top stories! I didn’t even know what that was but now i’ve found it, I’ll keep on going back!


  4. I think there is a cultural thing here. It is hard for advertising to ‘jump ship’. Its better that they do what they do best and reduce the whole campiagn to ‘a single word’ (

    In the meantime PR should create the context and content.
    It does mean a shift in budgets but that is not a big issue for a marketing manager even it it is for Sir Martin.

  5. Ed Lee says:

    Excellent point – if advertising does want a seat at the table (other than posting their 30 second spots to YouTube) then it will have to prove to marketers (clients) and consumers that it is capable of the sort of mind change that has been documented.

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