Image Courtesy of Flickr user cgallent
Public Relations vs. Advertising. Earned media vs. Paid media. Huge budgets vs. tiny ones. Advertising and Public Relations have been engaged in a love-hate relationships for decades. What’s more effective? What offers better ROI? How should they work together? Should they work together?
For years, advertising has been the big brother in this often tenuous relationship. Whether it’s the massive budgets or the Super Bowl ad campaigns, or the allure of millions of YouTube views, advertising always seems to receive the most attention from an organization’s executives. Public relations, on the other hand, tends to operate more in the background. Need to make budget cuts? Take it from PR. Need a job for that intern? Just give him to the PR team – anyone can do that stuff anyway.
Things are starting to change though. Google became the dominant search engine yet it didn’t air a single TV ad until last year’s Super Bowl. Product launches are now done via strategic leaks, keynotes, and even by purposely keeping your customers away. For the first time in 20 years, Pepsi ditched the 30 second, $4M Super Bowl ad, and instead sunk $20M into the Pepsi Refresh project. What’s going on here? Is this the beginning of the end for advertising?
Of course not. But social media has forced some changes to the advertising industry, whether the old-school likes it or not. And if advertisers want to keep up, they would do well to take some lessons from their PR brethren. In many ways, PR professionals are better equipped for successfully using social media – whether it’s their ability to build and maintain real relationships or their reliance on plain language instead of marketing fluff, PR pros have largely adapted to social media better than than the advertising industry. Here are a few areas where advertising would do well to follow PR’s lead:
- Advertising should always be looked at as a means to an end, not the end itself. In some ways, advertising itself is the goal (see USA Today’s Ad Meter or the press releases that companies issue about their ads) and has led to a greater focus on views, friends, and Tweets than on sales, revenue, or market share. Your ad campaign isn’t successful because it had a million YouTube views – it’s successful because it’s led to increased sales or customer loyalty or some other actual business objective.
- Be honest. Consumer trust in advertising is low and continues to fall. When it comes to your company, I’m more likely to trust, well, anyone, other than you. Stop with the boastful, deceptive marketing messages and be honest about your strengths AND your weaknesses. If something didn’t go right, tell me why and what you’re doing about it. Don’t gloss over it and try to blame someone else.
- 50% of 10,000 > 1% of 50,000. PR hasn’t had the benefit of massive budgets like advertising does. Bashing the public over the head with your ads and hoping for one and two percent returns doesn’t work anymore. Instead, spend more time crafting messages that relate directly with the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Speak like a human being. I’ll take a line from one of my favorite books, the Cluetrain Manifesto – “Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.”
- Show me, don’t tell me. Stop spending millions telling me how fantastic your product or your customer service is and show me. Virgin America’s advertising budget is less than 10% of American Airlines‘ yet Virgin consistently outpaces the traditional carriers in things like customer satisfaction, customer experience, and customer service. I don’t know about you, but I will often pay more money to fly Virgin America, JetBlue, or Southwest just to avoid having to deal with one of the big carriers.
I'll be speaking on a panel on Thursday, Sept. 22nd at Ad Week DC
PR and advertising are going to continue to work together more and more – each would do well to learn from each other. If you’re interested in hearing more about how social media is impacting the PR and advertising industries, I’ll be participating in DC Ad Week where I’ll be joining John Cangany and Karen Untereker for a panel moderated by Robert Udowitz called “What Can Advertising Learn From Public Relations When It Comes To Social Media.”
Social Media Strategery has been around for more than two years now – much much longer than I ever thought I would be able to keep this blogging thing up. As one of my colleagues mentioned to me the other day, two years is an eternity in Internet time, and I’m grateful that I’m still somehow able to come up with posts that people enjoy and/or find useful in their everyday lives. I’m even more grateful for all of you out there. This year, you’ve continued to support me in my writing – subscribing, commenting, and sharing my experiences and thoughts with your communities and for that, I can’t thank you enough.
So for everyone who reads this blog regularly – whether you’re a subscriber, reader, commenter, critic, colleague, or friend – thank you, thank you, thank you. Here are your top five most popular posts on Social Media Strategery from the past year:
- Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives – this has been one of my most popular posts ever, receiving more than 3,500 page views, 26 comments, 400 retweets, and 71 Facebook shares, but more than that, it became a rallying cry for those of us who have grown tired of seeing the wrong people in our organizations get tasked with social media initiatives because of their position, regardless of their skills, experience, or personality. Hopefully, this post also resulted in at least one or two leaders rethinking their staffing decisions.
- Six Villains of Gov 2.0 – One of the most light-hearted posts that I’ve done – this one generated a lot of interest not just because it was fun, but because I think many of us recognized and dealt with these villains before.
- I Started a Blog But No One Cared – A post from the very beginning of the year that has remained fairly popular throughout 2010. This post represented another example of people applying old rules to new media. Just because you’ve got a fancy title doesn’t mean anyone cares about what you have to say. Before, we just deleted your emails and you were none the wiser. In the world of social media though, content beats titles any day of the week.
- The “Getting Started with Gov 2.0” Guide – this post was borne entirely out of frustration. I grew tired of sending the same email out over and over again, so I created this post to serve as a resource to direct people to for the fundamentals on Gov 2.0. I can’t tell you how much time this post has saved me (and hopefully some of you) over the last year. Unfortunately, it’s now horribly out of date – looks like I need to create a “Getting Started with Gov 2.0” Guide – Redux post soon!
- Twenty Theses for Gov 2.0, Cluetrain Style – Amazingly, this post is now almost two years old (originally published in February 2009), yet it still gets fairly regular traffic. Enough traffic that it comes in as the fifth most popular post of 2010. My favorite part of this post is that it yielded many of the key messages that guide my team’s work to this day – from “Social media is not about the technology but what the technology enables” to “Social media is not driven by the position, the title, or the department, it’s driven by the person.”
This blog was a lot of fun for me this year – I was able to write about some pretty important stuff, meet a lot of new people, and most importantly, help make some positive change in the world of social media and our government. I’m looking forward to writing more, commenting more, and connecting more in 2011 – I hope you’ll all continue to be a part of that for at least 365 more days :).
I’ve fulfilled one of my social media resolutions for 2009, and have recently re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto. As I mentioned in that post, I always feel so much better about the work that I do when I look at it through the lens of the 95 theses laid out in Cluetrain. This is even more true now. Ever since President Obama’s “Transparency and Open Government” memo was issued a few weeks ago, it seems that every one of our clients is asking about social media. They all want to know how/if social media can help them become more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. They all want to know what they need to do to comply with the new Administration’s goals of transparency. Inevitably, this increased interest has brought its fair share of social media carpetbaggers and alleged Government 2.0 gurus, but it has also done an incredible job of bringing together real-life Government employees with contractors and consultants for a common goal.
Just as the Cluetrain laid out 95 theses that described the new global conversation taking place via the Internet, here are 20 theses (I’m not nearly as ambitious as the Cluetrain authors) for carpetbaggers, gurus, civil servants, contractors, and anyone else interested in Government 2.0. There are undoubtedly many many more that could be added to this list and I encourage you to add any that you think of in the comments.
- The risks of social media are greatly outweighed by the risks of NOT doing social media.
- Your Government agency/organization/group/branch/division is not unique. You do not work in a place that just can’t just use social media because your data is too sensitive. You do not work in an environment where social media will never work. Your challenges, while unique to you, are not unique to the government.
- You will work with skeptics and other people who want to see social media fail because the transparency and authenticity will expose their weaknesses.
- You will work with people who want to get involved with social media for all the wrong reasons. They will see it as an opportunity to advance their own their careers, to make more money, or to show off. These people will be more dangerous to your efforts than the biggest skeptic.
- Younger employees are not necessarily any more knowledgeable about social media than older employees. Stop assuming that they are.
- Before going out and hiring any social media “consultants,” assume that there is already someone within your organization who is actively using social media and who is very passionate about it. Find them, use them, engage them. These are the people who will make or break your foray into social media.
- Mistakes can and will be made (a lot). Stop trying to create safeguards to eliminate the possibility of mistakes and instead concentrate on how to deal with them when they are made.
- Information security is a very real and valid concern. Do NOT take this lightly.
- Policies are not written in stone. With justification, passion, and knowledge, policies and rules can and should be changed. Sometimes it’s as easy as asking, but other times will require a knockdown, drag-out fight. Both are important.
- Be humble. You don’t know everything so stop trying to pretend that you do. It’s ok to be wrong.
- But, be confident. Know what you know and don’t back down. You will be challenged by skeptics and others who do not care and/or understand social media. Do not let them discourage you.
- There are true social media champions throughout the government. Find them. Talk to them. Learn from them.
- Government 2.0 is not a new concept. It’s getting so much attention now because social media has given a voice to the ambitious, the innovative, and the creative people within the government.
- Social media is not about the technology but what the technology enables.
- Social media is not driven by the position, the title, or the department, it’s driven by the person. Stop trying to pidgeon-hole into one team or department, and instead think of a way to bring together people from across your organization.
- Instead of marketing your social media capabilities, skills, experience, platforms, software, etc. to the government, why don’t you try talking with them? An honest conversation will be remembered for far longer than a PowerPoint presentation.
- Today’s employees will probably spend five minutes during the workday talking to their friends on Facebook or watching the latest YouTube video. Today’s employees will also probably spend an hour at 10:00 at night answering emails or responding to a work-related blog post. Assume that your employees are good people who want to do the right thing and who take pride in their work.
- Agency Secretaries and Department Heads are big boys and girls. They should be able to have direct conversations with their workforce without having to jump through hoops to do so.
- Transparency, participatory, collaborative – these terms do not refer only to the end state; they refer to the process used to get there as well. It’s ok to have debates, arguments, and disagreements about the best way to go about achieving “Government 2.0.” Diverse perspectives, opinions, and beliefs should be embraced and talked about openly.
- It’s not enough to just allow negative feedback on your blog or website, you also have to do something about it. This might mean engaging in a conversation about why person X feels this way or (gasp!) making a change to an outdated policy. Don’t just listen to what the public has to say, you have to also care about it too.
The technology that is currently driving social media will change, but the principles of participation, transparency, and collaboration will not. You can either jump on the Government 2.0 cluetrain or get hit by it. Which one will you be?
*thanks to Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger for inspiring this post with their book, the Cluetrain Manifesto.