Social Media:Adverting v. PR — Round 1

DTeicher-This is my first, and long overdue, post for PRBC. Though I’m technically not in public relations anymore, the time I spent in the field has irrevocably molded my view of social media and helped me develop the skill set with which I operate today. But I’ve since moved to advertising and I find it amazing how publicists and ad execs hold such varied perspectives of how to operate within the social space on behalf of brands. I used to advocate that PR was the industry to spearhead social media initiatives. But I was admittedly biased. In  fact, I think the key to effectively establishing a brand as a powerful social entity is to take what each industry offers to the space and somehow unify the various approaches.

Disclaimer: please excuse any generalizations; I realize that not every PR Pro or campaign follows the same paradigm & ditto for advertising.

The publicist’s view of social media is one rooted in the larger goals of the industry. Publicists tediously shape brand images through narratives, they craft messages that convey the idealized principals that the brand represents, they micromanage public perception of a brand. Social media, as we use the term today, allows a publicist to continue to operate with the same objectives in mind. No new goals need to be set, no new responsibilities outlined. Social media for a PR pro means monitoring how the masses see your brand and interacting with them at whatever level is required to maintain the desired brand perception – be it customer service, continuous dialogue, soliciting consumer feedback, etc. PR is equipped to deal with the social part of social media.

Advertisers, on the other hand, focus on the media facet. No one disputes the importance of the aforementioned uses  of social media. But advertising also has a clear and defined goal – tell people what to buy. The problem is, people don’t go on twitter and Facebook to be told what to do, especially not by brands – so an indirect route is taken, one of big budget stunts and campaigns, and costly microsites and apps designed to make a big splash.

While the PR professional is so well suited to manage a conversation and even generate content, it’s up to the advertisers and marketers to capitalize on that conversation and turn that talk and resulting public image into sales, traffic, and increase the reach of paid media.

Frankly, I saw the social space, and all the networking platforms, tools, and sites that comprise it, as a veritable wild west – an unclaimed territory up for grabs – assuming that one industry would plant it’s flag and claim ownership of the domain. But that’s not how it is. What publicists, marketers, and advertisers, those in-house and their agency counterparts, all need to understand, is that effective, successful, employment of social media means, long term cooperation and coordination. PR professionals need to be working in tandem with their clients ad agencies. Unless the strategies and messaging is aligned, no brand will be able to really “own” their own social presence.

This is just an introduction.  I’ve done my best to keep it short and ramble free; but those who know me well know I can talk for hours and hours about anything, especially social media.  So hopefully, if I’m asked to write again, I’ll go into more detail as to how the advertiser and publicist can complement and support each other, as opposed to fight each other. But for now, just take my word for it – no one industry has all the answers or capabilities. If an agency is to truly have their clients best interests in mind, when planning social media endeavors, all branches of marketing and communication have to be included and accounted for. Yes, I ended a sentence in a preposition; deal with it.

David Teicher is a Social Media Manager & Strategist For McCann-Erickson NY

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  • adamvincenzini

    This is interesting, I wrote a similar post yesterday (http://thecommscorner.blogspot.com/2009/12/who-…) – I like you could disciuss it forever…and a day!

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  • erinmcg

    I've always maintained that I love social media because it's a combination of PR, marketing, advertising, and customer service. It truly blurs the lines between each of them. While each has a distinct goal, I really think having an understanding (the deeper the better, of course) of each industry will mold true social media experts, while those stuck in one camp or another will be left in the dust. I too currently work at an advertising agency, on the social media team. We each have different backgrounds and it helps to make our team a well-rounded one.

  • jeffespo

    Great post, I have the feeling that we may butt heads a little bit on the ownership aspect as I am in the PR camp, because of the importance of conversations. But I definitely see the wild west aspect. I take it you have the nice prospecting spot up in the gold hills.

  • jeffespo

    Great post, I have the feeling that we may butt heads a little bit on the ownership aspect as I am in the PR camp, because of the importance of conversations. But I definitely see the wild west aspect. I take it you have the nice prospecting spot up in the gold hills.