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Gini Dietrich

Public Relations vs. Marketing

By: Gini Dietrich | August 8, 2011 | 
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Last week I violated the rules of the Network of PR Professionals LinkedIn group.

I didn’t mean to, but, according to the group “rules,” you can only post things in there that are about traditional PR.

But I posted the summary of Marcus Sheridan’s webinar about the types of content you can create to generate leads. And, because the blog post said “generate inbound leads” instead of “attract Web site visitors” or “increase brand awareness,” I broke the rules.

You see, I believe a few things:

  1. Public relations (not publicity) can and should be measured to sales results;
  2. Public relations professionals need to gain some basic marketing skills or our industry will become defunct;
  3. Public relations is the very best place for content development because we are, after all, writers; and
  4. Really good content does more than attract Web site visitors or increase brand awareness – it generates inbound leads for the sales team.

If you know me well, you know that my being scolded over breaking the rules of any kind is mortifying to me. So, I apologized, said I understood the rules, and that I wouldn’t do it again.

But the conversation didn’t end there.

The email’s author said:

I agree with you that generating content – especially in the digital age – is a primary function of any PR department or campaign. Really good marketing copy is essential for any organization that wishes to engage with visitors to its Web site, blog, Facebook page, etc., and get them to bite on various calls-to-action within the content.

But marketing in not PR. An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions.

So here we are – a traditional PR guy and me at an impasse.

I grew up in the traditional PR world, so I get it. But I also see some big changes coming in our industry. Changes that mean companies will work only with agencies and consultants who can measure their work to sales results.

As much as I love the work I’ve always done, it’s impossible to measure “increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior” to revenue. Sure, we know intuitively that it works and we also know that, without PR, a brand or company will suffer because there are no communication about it.

But it can’t be measured. Not in a hard numbers kind of way.

Integrated traditional PR, digital media, and some basic marketing, though, can be measured. Sometimes in as little as 60 days.

So should creating content that generates inbound leads be left to the marketing folks because their function is to help sales? Or can PR be responsible for it, as well?

If it’s the latter, what’s the harm in discussing it with our peers around the world, via a LinkedIn group, so we all become better professionals that know how to change with the times?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

222 comments
KamaTimbrell
KamaTimbrell

When I hear someone say PR isn't marketing, I have to wonder if they've never heard of the 4 P's of Marketing. I thought everyone in PR/Marketing had.

KirkHazlett
KirkHazlett

Thanks for this post. You hit all the pertinent points...directly! Will be sharing with my PR students!

MSchechter
MSchechter

Amazing how often "the rules" are "the thing" that prevents progress. Any industry that isn't take a hard look at itself right now is lost. Any industry that has rules that prohibit evolution and progress need people like you to take those rules and unceremoniously break them.

kdpaine
kdpaine

Does anyone believe that the average customer has a clue about whether the impetus that compelled them to buy something comes from a paid ad, an "owned" Facebook page or an "earned' story in USA Today? Can we get it into our heads that stakeholders are what matters, and they don't care what we call what we do. Ultimately, the CEO, CMO, COO, Board or whoever signs your paycheck, cares that you have a tangible impact on the stakeholder. Whatever your organization, and whatever your department, you should spend your working days supporting activities that have a positive impact on the health of the organization. So whether its gettting him/her to support a cause, defend a brand, or knock on the show room door -- we need to measure how we contribute to that end result. NOT because it will justify our existance, but because we need to understand which of the many actions we are take have the biggest impact on the results for the least cost.

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

I just recommended your blog to a colleague, @ginidietrich . Do you know why? Because we were talking about best ways to pitch/approach clients and my colleague and I agreed that PR pros need to be strategic counselors, not awareness drivers who hope and pray we make it to our next destination before we run out of gas. The latter is not good enough. I learned that here, which is why I come back.

Traditional PR metrics are a bunch of what ifs, maybes and gee I hope so's. As I recently heard @donbart say (paraphrasing): If you took stats, you know that multiplying all those what ifs, maybes and gee I hope so's together means there is a small probability that what you wanted to have happen really happened.

For today's PR pros, that measurement approach is just not good enough. End of story.

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

While I was researching PR firms to build a relationship with at my last company there was a blend of traditional (we will stand in your trade show booth and have a buge media tour around the world!) and those that are more in your camp (we want to build infographics and whitepapers and a social strategy that targets key media and influencers to generate leads/demand). We chose the latter. A few years ago I asked a close friend who is a founder of a PR agency here in Boston howw he saw his responsibilities as the PR firm evolving with the emergence of social media and content marketing and he said 'not much, that's marketing's job.' Fast forward 2 years and his firm is pitching theiir great writing skills, ability to 'take over' content marketing for clients and building, managing and running social media campaigns. Those PR pros still using terms like 'media tour' 'analyst tour' 'clip book' are going to be a thing of the past soon enough.

RyoatCision
RyoatCision

Oh Gini, sorry to hear about the contentions you have faced--but look at this great post you got out of it! Your viewpoint on this, on integration, seems obvious to me. Of course once your messaging becomes interactive, and when sales can happen online (or even without this characteristic), you have a pretty clear view of what activities are generating what revenues. I feel there are groups that still want to maintain the division between PR and marketing for kind of academic purposes, or because integration, at first, produces something with no visible shape to it, which is difficult to manage of course. I have some sympathy for this, but rather in the way I have sympathy for a child shivering with fear on a diving board. You are going to have to go for it at some point.

mdbarber
mdbarber

As always, an interesting post and even more interesting discussion happening here. I'm going to have to disagree with you though, my friend. Not because I think you're incorrect -- in some cases and with some public relations programs -- but because I don't believe this can be an absolute statement.

Organizations who conduct public relations to, say, increase awareness about an issue to help them change a law, will not be measuring the program based on sales. Instead the successful passage of legislation.

I recently worked with an organization trying to improve their stakeholder's health and well being. Participation in the event I helped them with was only one way they were measuring the changes i their stakeholder's health.

I don't agree, as you know, with the guy who said you can't post within his group because your posts are about inbound sales. However, I think we always have to be careful with absolutes.

Each organization needs to put the public relations function within its structure where it makes the most sense. Further, I believe there will always be overlap but I don't think public relations should be part of marketing, even in large companies. They should work with marketing...human resources... advertising...and whatever other departments are making internal and external decisions within a company.

As PR pros we do need to adapt. We do need to be aware of the changing communications landscape. We need to work with other departments. It's also true that the other communications/marketing professionals need to understand what today's public relations professional brings to the party as well.

Thanks for making me think my friend!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KirkHazlett Thank you! And thanks for saying you're going to share with your students. It's a goal of mine to get a book into the curriculum. Baby steps.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@kdpaine A-freaking-men! Next time someone debates me over the 15 percent of a blog post he didn't like, I'm sending him to you!

(thanks for stopping by - I'm a big, big fan of yours!)

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@kdpaine Couldn't agree more. Customers care about one thing...their brand experience. That's it. And that fact alone is a strong argument for one-to-one engagement via social media or offline. Because those interactions create the stories people tell about brands.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@C_Pappas I think it'll take longer than we think for those agencies/pros to die. There are still plenty of companies who want media impressions and advertising equivalencies. We fired a client last year because they kept asking for those kinds of measurement. Internally we debated it - why not give them what they want? But I couldn't do it. It was making me nuts.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@RyoatCision After I got his last word email, I thought, "Don't get angry. This is a GREAT blog post!"

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@mdbarber We actually agree, Mary. I was pointing out solely that he dismissed completely that sales can be a measurement of what we do. And I agree that PR works with marketing and sales and HR and customer service and accounting and leadership.

kamichat
kamichat

@mdbarber Agree that there are other measures. The problem here is that the objector completely dismissed that sales could be one of them. THAT is the issue.

KelleeMagee
KelleeMagee

@AmyMccTobin I feel like I looked for you a while back and couldn't find you. Consider yourself circled, multiple times ;>

mdbarber
mdbarber

@ginidietrich That's a relief! ;-) Seriously, though I think that guy was a dweeb. I hate when we try to fit things into small holes based on our own experience without looking at what we can learn from others. Sorry I misunderstood the post.

mdbarber
mdbarber

@kamichat And I completely agree that it can be one of the measures. And that the person who sent the message needs to open his eyes and ears to current public relations. Where I diverge is that sales is the ultimate measure and the PR belongs in marketing. It does sometimes and not in others.

BobReed
BobReed

@kamichat@mdbarber Precisely! It goes back to what I said earlier. Not all business outcomes using PR are necessarily tied to sales, but a lot of them are.

paigeworthy
paigeworthy

@rickysalsberry SEO, boo. But the other two, if done by genuine people who believe in their clients' biz, can be great.

rickysalsberry
rickysalsberry

@paigeworthy After working in marketing I view it as the devil. And PR, well, just seems like the devil. Hiss. Also, SEO.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@KelleeMagee Ha. I disappeared somehow. I stayed in everyone's Circles but mine were gone & I had to rebuild. I can't find YOU now.

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