Gini Dietrich

PR Firms Botch 95% of Social Media Campaigns?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 13, 2011 | 
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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, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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