Going to the Darkside: A Flack Turns Marketer

low angle view of two fists collidingA few weeks ago, I began a new position. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be innovative and creative, to work with fantastic properties and develop social media strategies. It’s a dream come true for a flack like me.

One tiny thing. I’m not in the PR or publicity department. I’m on the marketing team.

I’ve gone over to the Darkside, guys. Red lightsaber and all.

Smarter blokes than I have hashed out the way the lines have blurred between marketing and PR, especially in the face of social media. So I won’t bother to do that here.

What I will say is that this switch had given me a whole new perspective on what PR and marketing is about. I’ve always been peripherally aware of the war over which department should be in charge of social media, PR or marketing. And in my naive devil-may-care fashion, I always thought it didn’t matter.

But now that I’m on Team Marketing (we’re getting the glittery T-shirts next week), things have changed. The scales have fallen from my eyes and I see the truth: Not only does it not matter, it SO does not matter.

I’m not saying the people arguing both sides don’t have valid points; they do. I just don’t see their stances as mutually exclusive. I can’t be the only one who gets frustrated by the title game; who cares what you call it? A PR push, a marketing campaign: a social media strategy by any other name smells just as sweet. If anything, social media is the proving ground on which previously disparate departments should begin to meld.

I don’t want to gather you all around the campfire and sing Kumbaya just yet, though, because I don’t have an answer for what this new landscape is supposed to look like. I don’t know. I don’t know. I simply do not know. But I do know what I’d like to see: communication. It’s a simplified solution, but it’s a start. Flacks, talk to your marketers. Marketers, talk to your flacks. You may be in different businesses, but you’re not on different planets. You’re both here to get products in front of the right people.

So this story ends more on an Ewok dance number than an Empire sort of thing. (For you non-geeks, that’s a good thing. Unless you hate muppets.)

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  • ronaldmina

    Even as the Imperial March plays in the background, I think there's some room for disagreement on whether it matters who is in charge of social media. From what this SM Padawan has seen, the client sets the tone for how social media is used, but marketers and flacks have different sub-tones as they implement the client's directions. Ii seems that there is more of a dialogue connotation when flacks run SM, and more of a sales connotation when marketers do.

    And you're right, flacks and marketers aren't on different planets, but at the same time, don't we both love playing with the shiny new toys?

  • Your piece makes me think back to my late twenties when I was starting out in PR. Back then PR was the dark side to journalism. Once you crossed over to PR, you could never go back. Things have changed. The boundaries are porous. And soon with social media, the borders of PR, marketing and journalism (to a large degree) will become nonexistent. Congratulations on your new position. If I were to do it all over again, I would have jumped straight into marketing.

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  • Jon Bornstein

    Amen! I was in PR for years. What I saw was the definition of siloed – the team didn't think about how they integrated with the broader marketing mix. Oh sure, there were integration meetings with field marketing. But 30 minutes later everyone would go back to their respective offices, feel good about meeting, and revert to SOP. It was refreshing to come to the marketing side because these are the kids who think about leads, coverage for the sales team, and revenue. That's far more exciting than counting clips.

  • bethvonbehren

    There are those, and I count myself among them, who refer to PR as marketing communications. Just sayin'…

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  • I work in a combined marketing and PR department, which I like to generally refer to as “Communications.” I agree, I don't think it matters who owns social media. I think we need to focus more on combining the marketing and PR departments. After all, both departments are fighting the same war.