August 30, 2009
Advertising, Marketing and PR Suck: Now What?
This past week, I was on a panel I didn't wildly promote, and when you hear the name of it, you'll understand why. I thought: better not to provoke the sharks although in hindsight, the sharks could have added some teeth to the discussion and so feel free to start a dialogue that will start a feeding frenzy.
One of Guy's questions was: what would you do if you only had $10K for a launch? Steve held the viewpoint that advertising is still effective and let's not nuke it just yet and replace with grassroots efforts using social media tools alone to drive word-of-mouth (he was aghast at a $10K budget to launch a product - "What can you really do for that?"). Interestingly enough, the majority of the room supported his view.
You can't really answer that question effectively without additional data, such as what product or service is it? There are very different solutions to how you launch a $300,000 enterprise solution into the market vis a vis an online tool like Seesmic that is enjoying success through viral buzz and community efforts alone.
Let's be clear about one thing: word-of-mouth and viral has always been effective. It's not new. The difference today is that instead of 20 or 200 influential outlets and voices who can make or break your product, we have 6,000. And, how much time do you spend at the very end of that long tail?
Despite how active he is online, Louis put on a 'real world hat' and reminded us that there is a world beyond Twitter and social networks when you think about your reach.
Creating buzz online through so called authenticity everywhere your customers are, commenting, responding, engaging with an existing community or creating one is great and critical - I couldn't agree more, but let's be honest here: it's incredibly time consuming and doesn't scale.
Not only doesn't it scale, but not everyone in your organization is going to present themselves with perfect etiquette all the time, particularly as you scale. In other words, I'd argue that as the number of people who can influence our product or service grows, the need for smart, strategic PR grows too.
Loic argues that traditional PR and marketing does not work to build a community. No, it doesn't when done poorly nor does it help to build a community when you don't do what PR should do well - be an honest communicator with all of your audiences, not just press.
In the training I had in London in the late eighties and early nineties, PR was never about just press - ever. Nor was it ever one directional. The problem is that there are far too many cases where that has either been the case OR perceived to be the case.
So, over time, flacks got a bad rap. As everything becomes more and more transparent, they're the first to get buried next to those equally dishonest marketers, lawyers and advertisers.
What PR can do effectively moving forward is jump into that thought leadership role, jump into that strategic role and jump into that master communicator role. In other words, now we need 'community managers" engaging with customers and everyone else hanging out in the Long Tail more than we ever had in the past.
If you really "get" PR's role and what it can do powerfully well, then you'll see where messaging, etiquette and creating a vision for the company will play a vital role in the new media economy. Not everyone in the organization necessarily has the skillset, know how or frankly, personality to execute on that vision effectively and cohesively.
Messaging will always be important. Great messaging wrapped around authenticity, directness and proactive engagement is key and PR is smack in the center of all of that.
Combine the above with the Tribes mentality that Seth Godin writes about in his latest book and you've got a magical formula.
If you're not honest and admit that we're all in this together, testing out new approaches as things evolve where every 'hat' can play a valuable role in building community and creating a loyal customer fan base, including PR, then you're not thinking long-term.
The video is up as well. Due to the typical time constraints, it's in 8 parts:
Part I below:
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very interesting post. i'm building a presentation for a client titled "putting the public back in pr" and there is much here that i can pull from. thank you for sharing.
one topic that seems to come up often regarding social media is the inability to scale. you mention it with this quote, "...but let's be honest here: it's incredibly time consuming and doesn't scale."
i disagree. isn't just people? what if a big advertiser decides to shift $10 million in media over to people to engage. couldn't that buy, i don't know, 100 or so sm savvy writers that know how to engage people and who are experts in subject areas that are related to the brand? wouldn't those 100 people be able to influence thousands of people each over time?
it is also content. think what a good creative agency could do with a million dollars to create interesting and ongoing online content and applications. wouldn't that increase brand awareness, and trust and leadership?
if whole foods can garner 1.2 million followers in twitter with their efforts, what could harley davidson do if they funded a large scale social media engagement and content effort?
scale can happen, it just needs companies to rethink how to get scale.
this is where i believe the opportunity lies for the brand that goes full bore. tens of millions of followers and fans that then influence tens of millions of their friends and followers. it will happen, whole foods is well on the way to those kind of numbers.
Posted by: greg wood | Aug 30, 2009 7:56:50 PM
interesting post. thank you for sharing.
Posted by: nazcar | Aug 30, 2009 9:43:12 PM
Very good points to consider. Thanks for sharing this.
What's being talked about here makes a lot of sense. It seems like PR and Marketing are still needed very much, but that the skill set needed to do these jobs are growing/morphing. 5 years from now if you don't know how to effectively use social media you will be obsolete.
Posted by: frank | Aug 31, 2009 8:54:31 AM
Try becoming someone who creates profits for companies, a MARKETING SOCIOLOGIST! http://mediarelationsexpert.com/Marketing_Sociologist.html
Posted by: Marketing Sociologist | Aug 31, 2009 10:14:43 AM
Thanks for your comments Greg and your thoughts. By scale, I was referring more to emerging companies with small budgets who are trying to reach influencers with same resources that they had at the same stage of their growth 5 and 10 years ago.
For Fortune 500 companies, this is in fact a better problem because yes, it's now cheaper than it was to hire a bunch of community managers or whatever you call them to reach out and engage. Comcast has six people dedicated just to monitoring Twitter - it may be more.
Would love to see your presentation btw when you're done. If you end up posting to slideshare, shoot me an email and let me know.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Aug 31, 2009 10:17:43 AM
I appreciate all the comments above and think there are some very valid points. I have been doing international business to business sales for many years and just the past 2-3 years pushed on social networking for advertising and seen the benefits. I think PR and advertising is in a process and social networking, advertizing, and Brand Marketing are only just beginning. We are a culture of instant gratification, answers and response and think we will only find new ways to feed it!
Posted by: Robert | Aug 31, 2009 7:13:43 PM
Nice summary - thanks for posting Renee. Scaling is that difficult piece of the puzzle all of us in small organizations need to solve. Seth's Tribes book helps. But we're getting really mechanical and formulaic in our thinking. Marketing and PR folks need to learn how to tell better stories. Even help the product folks figure out how to shape products to fit better stories.
Posted by: Allan | Aug 31, 2009 8:19:46 PM
What to do with a $10k launch budget is a great question. I just saw a great interview with Tim Ferris (4 Hour Work Week) and Kevin Rose (Digg founder) talking about exactly that. Kevin Rose mentioned a couple great ideas of getting the word out for under a thousand dollars. One idea was to host an after party at a conference. I guess that's what he did in the early days of Digg.
Here's a link to the video itself:
Posted by: Vladimir Drndarski | Sep 2, 2009 11:39:38 AM
HA, hosting a party after an event is not a new idea however - we've been doing that for years. If you have an 'industry' name it helps. Giveaways help. Free booze helps. More important than anything else for sustainable success however is great product, great messaging and a happy community because of the latter.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Sep 2, 2009 3:21:04 PM
You're right on the money, Renee. The minority who has drunk the social media Kool-Aid (and I count myself among them) tend to believe that the world has changed and we should just discard the old practices and embrace the new. We tend to forget than 90% of the market is still trying to figure out exactly what to do with Facebook. Word-of-mouth marketing has spawned some notable hits but also lots of misses. It would be foolhardy to put all your eggs in that basket unless you didn't have many eggs to start with.
You're also correct that PR has an opportunity to lead engagements and expand its charter beyond media relations. We've become too myopic over the past 20 years. PR's role is to communicate with the public, no matter how the public chooses to engage. This is a great time for PR pros to lead the charge because marketing is too afraid of what it might lose to really embrace the idea of customer conversations.
Posted by: Paul Gillin | Sep 12, 2009 4:51:55 AM
Agreed Paul. A well thought out PR effort which engaged rather than dictated even 20 years ago a) was never just about press and b) wasn't a one way sales push.
As Shih even points out in her incredibly thorough Facebook Era book: "there have been a few runaway viral hits such as Gap's experience with Pieces of Flair and T.I.'s MySpace profile, but there have also been a lot of poor campaigns and unmet expectations."
Later she even admits a concern that people will tire of Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn....and that there's a social fatigue around social ads.
There's also the brand mismatch issue, where it may not be appropriate to broadcast their affinity for a product.
That said, the creation of communities forming around your product whether you want them to or not is a huge shift and something as an industry, we need to see as an explosive opportunity rather than one that digs deep into PR and marketing as roles that don't get it.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Sep 13, 2009 12:05:24 PM
Good points to Remember.
Posted by: adams | Sep 14, 2009 3:42:02 PM
great blog. keep it up :)
good points mentioned. your article is really helpful for start-ups like me. i started my ad campaign with Prova and it really didn't require me that much budget. the work was simply outstanding. thanks for the great tips.
Posted by: Barbara | Feb 4, 2010 11:32:07 AM
Thanks for the feedback Barbara, glad you found it useful.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Feb 5, 2010 5:59:03 PM