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Social Media and PR – Can’t We All Get Along?

December 18, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Thanks to tweets from @Steveology I came to read ZAC’s (Zachary Adam Cohen) recent blog post PR Firms: Zombie Wasteland and I couldn’t type a reply quickly enough and in fact long before I started to type I realized that Jules Zunich had already posted a very thoughtful reply. So if you want a thoughtful reply see her piece. The below is a bit of a rant, but it will make me feel better. I actually thought twice about posting a reply at all when I realized that clearly Zac wants some attention for his piece – which is why he said he is: totally expecting to get my head ripped off on some of my claims…so have at it’ but then I realized that this is an interesting topic and while I am not a head-ripper, there are a few points that can’t go unchallenged.

Such as: Traditional agencies exude a 20th Century mindset that is all about control,  protection, crisis management and most of all, gate-keeping. In other words,  the exact antithesis of  everything the social world is about.’

Wow, I must suck at my traditional PR job because I don’t have the mindset of control, protection, crisis management or gate-keeping. My traditional PR agency experience has been largely focused on B2B high technology clients, which means it is all about publicity, messaging, media coverage, buzz and reputation management. It also is one of the last industry segments that need to adopt social media. No one is buying a $500,000 router from twitter. (I’ll probably get MY head ripped off for that over generalization).
Maybe it is because I’m a slow legacy PR guy, but I had to re-read this next part several times to figure out if he was serious or not:
 ‘By the time that traditional PR firms catch up to what is going on in social  media, which even now they still seem to be having trouble with, the mobile  and social firms will be WAY ahead of them.’
What? that is like saying in circa 1995 that traditional PR agencies couldn’t adjust to email and online publications. Using social media makes our job easier not harder.
For years us old school PR folks needed to craft messages that will be communicated via (the real) gate-keepers. Social media helps eliminate the gate-keeper making our job easier. Regarding PR ‘catching-up’ now, if I’m promoting a restaurant, I’ll call a social media consultant to suggest a couple of tactics, but the real PR work will (and should) stay with the PR professionals.
My larger issue with Zac’s piece is that he interchanges PR and advertising agencies. He talks about PR campaigns, but he keeps coming back to buying advertising. PR is not advertising and marketing isn’t necessarily PR and social media certainly isn’t a replacement for PR. Traditional PR is alive and well and I expect it to stay that way. I wrote not too long ago that the traditional press release is still alive and kicking and I stand by that post. Nothing says traditional PR more than the press release.

I have no desire to make this a personal attack (I hope I was successful) and in fact I want to give Zac lots of credit for starting this conversation and for putting forward his views – as wrong as they may be.

Seriously, Zac and Jules, I’ll be reading your blogs much more often now. You both have some very interesting and strong opinions.
  1. December 7, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Paul, you’ve unearthed a blog post that feels like it was written a decade ago! Thanks for the link, and of course I’ll disagree with some of your points, but on others, I absolutely have to agree with you. For instance, I believe press releases are still viable and important parts of the outbound marketing stream.

    I will tell you though that many of the businesses that end up calling me are those uninspired or unhappy with their PR firms, especially when the clients bring up what PR can do about/ for/ with social media. Whether or not that is because PR is living in the past, or just have yet to get their best people on the particular problems and opportunities inherent to social/ digital media.

    No personal attack and all, and thanks for the link.


    • December 7, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, just to clarify, my original post was written long ago too, but apparently you (and everyone else) missed it when I was blogging with Blogger. I’m happy with agreeing to disagree. You are correct in saying that PR firms that can’t deliver social media results will have unhappy (soon to be) ex-clients.
      Take care.

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