Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is Marketing Dead? Why PR should drive "The Connection"

HubSpot’s Brian Halligan has written some provocative posts recently including

“Is PR dead?”
• “What’s the ideal profile for a modern PR person?”

His posts touched a nerve with me (as a PR professional) and prompts my responsorial question:

Is Marketing Dead?

Some thoughts on why PR is well equipped to drive the process of connecting and engaging with those that matter.

1) Public Relations isn't Marketing

Marketing’s principal function is to support and drive sales and traffic.
PR 2.0 is about communicating with anyone who would find you relevant and interesting.

2) Modern Public Relations is More Than Media Relations

While connecting effectively with opinion gatekeepers (press and analysts), continues to be an important value-add for PR people, the world has changed:

The simultaneous co-incidence of the economic turndown, implosion of old line mass media (newspapers, magazines, TV), and rise of ubiquitous broadband Internet connectivity/cheap web comms tools (WordPress, YouTube), business/citizen journalism-- has changed the media landscape forever.

As I said at last week’s Inbound Marketing Summit: "We are all the media."

3) PR should really be an abbreviation for “Publics Relations”

Beyond outreach to media and analysts, PR can drive effective dialogue with all who are important to the company: bloggers, customers, prospects, communities, direct-to- public, etc.

“Audiences” are an atavistic artifact of 20th century mass media and old-fashioned marketing thinking.

Innovators who practice PR 2.0 connect, engage, listen and interact with others in an ongoing exchange that benefits all.

Good PR people are skilled communicators first and foremost. Companies should hire them (internally or external PR practioners) to develop and conduct the strategies, tactics and programs that will meet a company’s business and communications goals and objectives.

4) Analytics are over-rated. Just do the right thing!

While there’s great value in measuring marketing metrics vis a vis a sales funnel-- measuring the value of positive opinion and mindshare from various publics is harder to measure. On the other hand—there’s common consensus that those companies who do not connect regularly and communicate honestly in a helpful and respectful manner are setting themselves up for failure. Companies who don’t consider PR a top strategic investment will do so at their own peril.

As I've written before, companies need to see ROI as "Return-on-Interaction" not just focus on eyeball economics measures like cost-per-click, customer lifetime value, churn rate and RFM analysis.

PR's understanding of awareness, perception, recall and motivation makes it the best team in a company to listen, learn and engage.

As Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) said at the Inbound Marketing Summit:
“Listening is the new black”

5) Tools are helpful and cool… but their effectiveness depends on the user

While PR people and marketers are embracing free tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and low-cost marketing services (HubSpot, Constant Contact)—that doesn’t mean they’ll be effective. Giving someone a chisel doesn’t enable them to create sculptures like Michaelangelo in the same way that the effectiveness of individual blogs (WordPress, depends mostly on quality and value of their content and its creator(s).

Sure--Content is King,
but Connections are Queens,
Dialogues are Princes, and
Relationships are Princesses

Professional communicators (aka PR people & others) should be recognized as strategic advisors to the Court---those who are best equipped to create and manage content, connection, dialogue, and relationships for a company.

In my experience--- Good PR people do a better job than marketers at building long-lasting relationships based on interest, interaction, respect and trust.

Organizations that are optimized for transparent communications (within and outside the organization) are examples of modern organizations that are destined for success.

6) Modern PR people have a unique blend of skills and qualities

While Brian’s DARC acryonym for people he thinks should be on a marketing team is catchy… “Modern” PR people transcend acronyms through qualities that make them the communications pros they are:

Smart, Articulate, Caring, Creative, Connected, Cooperative, Cosmopolitan (at home around the world), Diligent, Eager, Experienced, Fun-loving, Enthusiastic, Facilitative, Flexible, Helpful, Honest, Human, Inspirational, Nonlinear, Responsive, Savvy, Selfless

Aren’t these the qualities any CEO wants to see in from those who represent their company to the world at large?

Are these adjectives that are commonly associated with Marketing people?

Twisting Brian Halligan’s question “Is PR Dead” around, let me ask:

“Is Marketing Dead?”

A Google search shows 84,000 hits on the subject.

What do you think?


  1. Hi Patrick.

    Many thanks for engaging the conversation.

    I basically am asking the community the question, "Is PR Dead?" My answer to that question and what the community seems to be saying is that PR is not dead, but is in need of a major transformation. I think PR is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100 years as Paul Roetzer of PR2020 wrote on his blog.

    I think it is a fair question to ask "Is Marketing Dead?" as well. My personal feeling is that similar to PR, it is not dead, but it is in need of serious transformation. I think marketing will change more in the next 5 years than it has in the last 50 years.

    I tend to try to think out into the future on stuff. Sometimes my thoughts come true in a couple of years, sometimes far in the future, and sometimes I'm just dead wrong. (smile)

    Many PR firms are on top of the transformation that is happening are doing an awesome job. There are also lots of new PR firms who are more in the mold of what I am talking about. Having said that, the vast majority of PR firms are stuck in the old model. I see this in the job applicants we get at HubSpot from the folks in the large PR agencies who are getting frustrate with the lack of adaptation going on.

    I think you are an example of someone who is nimble and really embracing the changes that are afoot.


  2. Patrick,

    Great porofile, and I love the topic. I don't believe marketing is dead per se, nor do I believe that PR can step in and just run it like slipping behind the wheel of your buddy's car.

    The reason for that is both groups face the same headwind and that is accounting and sales have a lock hold on the corner office and can only see as far as the end of their noses. I agree with you that PR people are far better equipped to build long lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. One only needs to watch an episode of the TV show Mad Men to see that many marketing people posess a diva like temperment and act accordingly.

    While I agree that PR is an ideal candidate for running the marketing operation, I do beileve that a great deal of time needs to turn inward and work on changing the mind set of the corner office so that the misguided concept of "managing" earnings is destroyed once and for all.

  3. Patrick,

    Thanks for this post and your insight into the current state of PR. I am in total agreement with you. I think the trap that people, and esp. marketers fall into, is having a very narrowly defined vision of PR.

    I spend a lot of time getting my students to understand PR pracitioners' role as boundary spanners in an organization; those who are uniquely positioned to look internally at organizational needs and externally at stakeholder needs and facilitate a two-way (or 100-way) dialogue that is mutually beneficial and builds long-term relationships.

    I also spend quite a bit of time making sure my students have both traditional--and still important PR skills--such as excellent written and verbal communication, strong analytical abilities and the ability to play well with others in addition to social media and technological skills that will make them more marketable in this economy.

    Another area where some people limit their thinking about PR is in assuming that all PR happens in agencies. While this is a significant piece of PR business, certainly the most prominent, a good deal of PR happens daily in government, non-profit, trade associations, etc. And though I would love all organizations and everyone to understand PR 2.0 and jump on board, the reality is that we can't push it onto all orgnizations. The university where I teach is in a poor rural area in SE Ohio. When my students work with "clients" in our campaigns class there is about a 50/50 split between organizations who want our help with PR 2.0 and social media and those who may love the idea but know that it won't help them reach their audiences, many of whom are still on dial-up. Situations like that are a perfect example of why PR people need to understand traditional PR principles in addition to emerging principles--one of the most important things a PR person can do is to understand the most effective channel for communicating to a particular group.

    Again, thanks for your insights. I look forward to future posts from you.


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