8
213
Gini Dietrich

PR Firms Botch 95% of Social Media Campaigns?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 13, 2011 | 
149

I’m going to preface this blog post by saying I have not read Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk.

I did read Crush It, but it was really difficult for me to get through because the writing is so poor. In his defense, Gary does admit he’s not a writer; rather he wrote the book because he was asked to do so…and then he was asked again.

So, imagine my surprise when John Falchetto sent me a scan of a couple of pages from Thank You Economy

Ninety-five percent of the worst social media engagement I’ve seen was produced by PR companies that were hired to manage a brand’s profiles, pages, or blogs.

Wow. That’s quite the statement! Ninety-five percent of the worst social media engagement he’s seen?

As you can imagine, I set right to work to see where he found that stat. It turns out, he made it up. OK. Maybe of the companies he’s worked with, 95 percent of them had botched social media campaigns. So he didn’t entirely make it up. But that’s an awfully big generalization to make in a book. A published book with a real publisher.

He goes on to say:

Please, companies, stop hiring PR firms to do your community management. PR is in the push business; they send out press releases and book appearances and work B2B. They’re used to talking to editors, writers, and producers, not the public. They have no idea what’s going on in the trenches, and they’re awkward and shaky when they try to go there. The only reason PR claims they can do it is because they see which way the wind is blowing and it’s not toward them.

They’ll say anything to avoid losing your business. The ad agencies do a beter job than the PR companies because they are in the business of thinking about what the consumer wants, but ideally, try to hire people internally  for this job. Select the employees who know your business well, and care about it as much as you do, and can demonstrate quick, creative thinking, flexibility, and compassion. Those are the people you want representing your brand to the masses. If you don’t feel as though you have the knowledge in-house, hire a company to get the ball rolling and train your staff, then hand the reins off to your team.

Look, I am the very first one to admit that a customer or prospect doesn’t want to talk to a middle man; they want to talk to someone within your four walls. Gone are the days of hiring a PR firm because of their relationships with the media. Gone are the days of the scripted soundbytes and the canned responses to interview questions.

Now we’re in real-time where we have real relationships with those who do or may buy from us.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

PR professionals, by nature, know how to build relationships: With media, with influencers, with Wall Street, with stakeholders, with employees…and even with customers.

If you were to read that statement in the book you’d think PR pros only work with media…and that’s all we’ve ever done.

Well guess what? Publicity is one tiny piece of PR. And I mean tiny. In a fully integrated campaign, it’s typically 10 percent or less.

I agree: Keep the community management in-house as Gary suggests. But hire outside counsel to help you with campaign ideas, messaging, creating value-added content, taking the French (the we, we, we) out of all of your sales and  marketing materials, building your reputation, being ready for real-time crisis, and even learning how to build relationships with your key constitutes.

If you find the right PR firm for your business, you’ll have more than a five percent success rate.

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.

137 comments
3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Another good post I've missed. The "Thank You Economy" is on my recommended reading list, so good to be forewarned and forearmed about what's to come. Will also add a "what he/she said" to a bunch of these comments, as well a nod to @garyvee for mixing it up here and you @ginidietrich for trying to raise the level of debate and sparking an informative and helpful discussion. Would that 95% of the business leaders would read this (and the comments!). FWIW.

RizzoTees
RizzoTees

We are attacking a statistic that just isn't right. That being said, are PR firms good at community management?

GnosisArts
GnosisArts

Oh everyone knows garyvee exaggerates and falsifies data to make points. It's part of the reason his stuff goes viral. If we take his statements with the grain of salt their worth, blog reactions like this would cease to exist.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

The problem with PR agencies is they don't view their work as one with people, but as one with the public. Nobody calls it people relations. I say they should: http://ariherzog.com/stop-saying-pr-is-public-relations/

Because they don't identify their customers as people, they will continue to fail with anything social.

prlab
prlab

Even if one sentence was taken out of context; that sentence is not based on fact. The statistics are rubbish. If that's the case, how much of the rest of the book is baseless? That's why it doesn't deserve a read. People, it's a published work. Sources and statements have to be credible.

prlab
prlab

Now I read someone quoting a definition of public relations from WIkipedia (yes, you, robynslaughter). There really are some people who have no concept of credible sources, and of course this debate stemmed from that fact. Get your fact right for start, because everything begins with research.

garyvee
garyvee

I just want to point out that I adore PR and am well aware of all the awesome things it can do, I would hope many of you read the few pages not just sentence to understand the context I was writing about things I have seen in the market and was debating push marketing - I am so sorry so many of you are now upset with me but please understand if you read it within the context of the book I wasn't trying to hurt or diss PR, I practically agree with every comment here :(

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz

I've been meaning to comment on this since yesterday (especially after first reading the title and thinking "This is gonna be gooooooood!!!"). People have probably already covered everything I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway :)

Having 15 years of experience on the client side and being the one who has hired the agencies, I can honestly say that it's not a matter of PR vs. advertising. Simply, there are good AND bad agencies in both the public relations AND advertising camps. But if we MUST differentiate... from MY experience as the client, it's was the ad agencies who had the agendas to push and the PR firms who did their best to relate from the client/our organization's perspective (but I'm not going to pull a random number out of my... and publish it :)

Even before social media tools existed, it was the PR agency who worked with us (the client) in creating a community engagement/relationship-building strategy regarding a fairly sensitive issue, and it was the ad agency who pushed "buy ad space and billboards". Really dudes, really?!?! Advertising space pertaining to a community health topic and create more questions instead of answering the ones that are already running rampant?!?!? *shake head*.

To make a claim as he did, clearly indicates that he has no concept of the full extent of what PR does. And like what many here have voiced, it's sad, disappointing and unfortunate that someone who is so highly regarded can make blanket statements without having the solid facts to back it up.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

I am sad that Gary V wrote that in his book (even if it was a ghost writer - wait, that was for Crush It, maybe not this one) and like you've said so many times here, that it will be read and regaled by so many business owners out there. Just look at some of the wow factor here by his stopping by. He's up there! He's someone that influences people - a lot of people. I'm disappointed because I read his book (and yes, the writing was not my style - more like an excited frat boy) but I have to say it was one of the single most important factors that got me to jump into video! That, and your video, of course. :) So, I have to say he influenced me.

Unfortunately, those that we put up on pedestals do fall and this one just tumbled for me.

KimDavies
KimDavies

Hi, Gini.

You are SO right. PR is not all about publicity, it is that and so much more. When I was still a reporter, I had to cover business press conferences and I really admired the PR people that run them. You know immediately who among them really cared and those who were doing their jobs just for the sake of it.

The great ones were all over the place taking care of the needs of everyone and they made sure the presentations were perfect. They did not just kiss up to the media to get more publicity, they really took the time to ensure that everyone got what they needed. Now, that is PR work!

Thanks for sharing this, Gini. It was a worthwhile read. :)

prlab
prlab

This bloke Vaynerchuk obviously knows zilch about PR (and reputation management, the heart of PR). He's just lost his credibility and reputation. There really is some crap masquerading as credible material. The publisher should also be taken to task. I wouldn't even discuss anything further than that. It doesn't warrant discussion. What is does warrant is a campaign against shoddy work like this. @pr_doctor

knowledgenotebk
knowledgenotebk

@ginidietrich, Probably PR with a vertical focus can go a long way! Any such one into consumer software?

lgdrew
lgdrew

Ironic that in a space where trust is key, you can't trust one of the most influential voices. I've watched several of Gary's presentations but have yet to read the books. He's got a hell of a lot of passion and enthusiasm but facts are important too.

WWBS - What would the bibliography say?

mdbarber
mdbarber

85% of statistics are made up...or something like that. Because I type it here, you can assume it's fact. But I made it up and so did this dude. It's not okay for anyone to do that. But...this dude chose to make up a statistic that puts our profession in a bad light. I wish he'd go pick on someone else's profession and hope he regrets picking on ours. i really tire of people who don't do their homework and make brash generalizations such as this about anything.

And then there's the media relations piece...Public relations is just about media. It never has been. Not yesterday, not last year, not 30 years ago...never. I think this has happened in many cases because it's the easiest to way to explain what we do to others. We put clients on television. But it's really not what we do. The piece of our profession I care about most is the counsel and positioning; the digging into the problems to find the communication solutions. But that's not as glamorous so we don't talk about it as freely since .

Thanks for being a champion for us and for helping the community have a voice.

al.pittampalli
al.pittampalli

Gary is a fiery one, and you can't take what he says too literally. He makes generalizations out of his passion for change. I think if you were to sit him down and talk to him, he would admit that there are good PR folks that get it too.

Leon
Leon

G'Day Gini,

Did you know that earlier this year, the readers of "Advertising Age" voted "Poitioning;The Battle for the Mind," by Al and Jack Trout, the"greatest marketing book ever." It was first published in 1981!

Regards

Leon

megmroberts
megmroberts

@Ari Herzog Hi Ari! I wanted to jump in because I think this statement falls into the broad generalization category that got many of us upset in the first place. I work at a PR agency and I identify my customers (clients) as people and I also value my client's customers as people. There are many PR agencies that do social well just as there are many that don't.

Generalizations, especially negative ones, do not help improve the communications (PR, marketing, advertising...) industry, either in reputation or practice.

garyvee
garyvee

@prlab but I didnt say it as a fact, i said it as a quote, u know? meaning 95% of what I have seen :( anyway I agree with u

CITYPUBLICITY
CITYPUBLICITY

@garyvee Nice PR here Gary - responding to your 'customers' the people, us - the readers, posters bloggers, with honesty in real-time. :) This whole post is a good case study in itself!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@garyvee I took that pull-out out of context for two reasons: 1) It was designed, in the book, to be read as a stand-alone (from the sounds of it, a decision by the publisher) and 2) Because there isn't any context that can make a PR pro feel better about 95% of the botched social media campaigns, from your experience, coming from our industry.

When someone with your influence and stature says, "Please, companies, stop hiring PR firms to do your community management," you're putting all of us in a bad light. It scares me that business leaders will read that and, the next time one of us is in the room, they'll have an immediate prejudice.

The PR industry gets a bad rap. We're seen as spin doctors and media flacks. The goal of this blog is to elevate the conversation and call out things, like this, when they represent an entire industry.

I respect you even more for coming by here several times to talk with our community. I was a fan before; now I'm a bigger fan.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@garyvee I want to expand things to the fact that most Social Media Campaigns have not produced sizable sales. This goes for PR, Marketing etc. When the Ad Contrarian and I thrashed the Mashable coverage of a Nielsen study last year trying to prove Facebook Marketing works the threw out the 100+ campaigns that fails and cherry picked 20+ to show it works every time.

You are an example of people to people which I am very much a strong proponent for. Just like @ginidietrich has this community due to similar efforts of relating with people personally.

But brand are not people. Use social for listening or customer service. But I do not see it as a sales mover for big companies. There is zero scale. You can't touch personally one million people. You can push to them. But then of course that is not Social. A fortune 500 company would need 5,000 employees to possibly generate 1 million die hard customers using social assuming 1 employee can get to know 200 customers. You can not do that on Twitter or Facebook.

I have seen you work your phones in your video casts on U Stream Gary. Imagine if 10,000 people were on hold? And a big company needs that exponentially. So my point is it is not a PR issue it is a platform not meant for marketing in my opinion.

garyvee
garyvee

@CristerDelaCruz did you read the whole chapter? I really feel this is being taken out of context:( I didn't use an absolute number, I was speaking to an early observation I have seen :( im sad 1 sentence out of a 150 page book is beig focused on out of the context of the rest :( that said I have learned how to word things better and I see my mistakes

garyvee
garyvee

@EricaAllison I would love to meet u one on one, I really am surprised that te comment was taken out of the context it was meant, did u read the book?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@EricaAllison I was doing video before I read Crush It, but I thought the point he made in there was excellent. It's about having your own unique voice and showcasing you. I'm not taking away anything from either book. I just really hate that business leaders will read this and, the next time PR is in the room discussing social efforts, they'll shy away.

robbyslaughter
robbyslaughter

@KimDavies What are some PR activities in that other 90% that CLEARLY fall under the "not publicity" heading?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KimDavies It's just like anything else: It's about the relationships. If you can't build relationships with human beings, you'll be found out and your work will be affected. Why is it so hard for people to get?

garyvee
garyvee

@prlab PR doc did u read the book? The pages around this one sentence? I just want you to know I am a huge fan of PR and use it an adore it :( super sad this happened over a statement that was a small observation but I have learned from it and thank all of u

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@prlab LOL! I agree. The industry needs a good advocate. Badly.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@knowledgenotebk PR, in general, can go a long way. We've always built relationships so it shouldn't matter who it's with.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lgdrew He told me this is based on his own experience, but the thing that bothers me is business leaders are going to read this and take it for gospel. Oh no! We can't have PR involved in our social efforts. Let's keep them in the corner talking to media.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@al.pittampalli I agree and I love the way he creates such strong advocacy around his brand. The problem is most business leaders don't know that, but will read this book and take it for gospel.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@robbyslaughter @KimDavies There are lots of things: Crisis, reputation management, events, community service, internal communication, employee engagement, etc. Publicity is such a tiny part of what we do that it's kind of annoying that people think that's all we do.

KimDavies
KimDavies

@ginidietrich Maybe it's because they think they can get away with just focusing on themselves and the returns they can get. These people! Tsk, tsk, tsk!

lgdrew
lgdrew

@garyvee has a point that it's out of context. But whether or not the meaning changes much in the context doesn't change the fact that generalizations can be harmful.

And @ginidietrich, that is bothersome! It's scary to me that people believe generalizations without looking further into the issue.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@amvandenhurk @mdbarber He told me on Twitter last night that this stat was based on his own experience so there is that. But I totally agree that putting our clients on TV isn't really what we do. It's frustrating that our industry has such a bad perception issue. Little by little we'll change it!

JGoldsborough
JGoldsborough

@garyvee @ginidietrich First of all, good to see you hear listening and engaging, Gary. Lesson to anyone out there listening...My comment went from critical to constructive tone as soon as I saw you were participating. Engagement disarms critics. Just sayin.

Second, while I have some worries about how the 95% stat will be taken out of context, I do want to point out that no one should be working with just a PR agency, or just a marketing agency or just an ad agency (the latter of which are much more guilty of being push businesses). In today's world, you need an integrated agency...an agency that can provide a 10,000-foot view and explain how all the pieces of marketing communications go together with customer service and culture to create a customer experience and a brand perception.

It's called public relations because we have years and years invested in that name and perception. But what's inside, for those doing it right like GD, is strategic communications. We just have to get past that exterior perception sometimes to help corporate leadership see the value. And quotes like yours -- no matter the context you meant it in -- can make that harder. Because if so many of us haven't read the book yet and took that quote as a stand alone, think how many others will do the same and take it to heart. Cheers.

megmroberts
megmroberts

@robbyslaughter @ginidietrich @KimDavies Publicity is more about attracting external public interest, usually in the form of media attention (http://www.merriam-webstercollegiate.com/dictionary/publicity?show=0&t=1308081631).

Public relations IS about managing public perception among a variety of internal and external "publics." The point many in this stream are trying to make is that publicity - often used interchangeably with media relations - is just one tool a PR professional can use to manage an organization's reputation and public perception.

Regardless of these semantics, it still comes down to why it's wrong to publish sweeping generalizations without substantive supporting data. I've had a few bad experiences with doctors and know numerous others who have as well, but I would never say that "doctors botch 95% of their medical cases' " without including qualified research and statistics to support this claim.

robbyslaughter
robbyslaughter

@ginidietrich @KimDavies Then I guess it's a matter of definition, because most of those (and all of them, if you count internal audiences as a public) sound to me like "publicity. " Wikipedia says that "publicity is the deliberate attempt to manage the public's perception of a subject."

I know that's a rather sharp way of putting things, but I'm looking for an aspect of PR that *doesn't* have as its primary objective the intent to manage perception. I think that the reason people are confused about PR---and the reason they foolishly associate 95% of bad social media campaigns to PR agencies---is they think that PR agencies are willing to take ethically questionable actions in their pursuit of perception management.

I feel like everything I've ever known a PR professional to do falls under the heading of managing public perception. That's just fine! That's the reason clients hire PR firms! The question is *how* PR pros do this work. Some (most!) are very ethical and professional. A few aren't. Enough bad things happen to inspire ridiculous "95% statements" and here we are.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lgdrew It IS bothersome. And so is "Please, companies, stop hiring PR firms for community management" because it not only is a generalization, it's a recommendation by a trusted, and influential, author.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] on yesterday’s Spin Sucks blog post, I thought this was an interesting discussion to continue [...]

  2. [...] this very subject, I have been “fired up” by another great post on Spin Sucks  by @ginidietrich – she speaks a lot of sense [...]

  3. [...] his controversial TechCrunch interview where he said 99% of social media experts are clowns, and Gini Dietrich’s blog post questioning Vaynerchuk‘s similar opinions about PR Firms in his [...]

  4. [...] PR Firms Botch 95% of Social Media Campaigns? (spinsucks.com) [...]

  5. [...] PR Firms Botch 95% of Social Media Campaigns? (spinsucks.com) [...]

  6. [...] someone who truly walks his talk. If you want a case study in how to handle online criticism, read this post over at Spin Sucks where the PR community took umbrage about something Gary said in his book The [...]

  7. […] someone who truly walks his talk. If you want a case study in how to handle online criticism, read this post over at Spin Sucks where the PR community took umbrage about something Gary said in his book The […]