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, 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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149 Comments on "PR Firms Botch 95% of Social Media Campaigns?"

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KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 16 days ago
I love when people throw the baby out with the bath water. I hear it all the time in my field of Social Media. We make broad sweeping generalizations, which are tainted by our personal bias, and our observations. Seriously, how does Gary know that the PR firm is running the social media campaigns he is looking at. In most cases, you DON’T and SHOULDN’T know. They should be somewhat invisible. I do agree that much of community management should be done in house, but it has to start somewhere in terms of strategizing and education. Don’t worry. I’d hire… Read more »
johnfalchetto
5 years 16 days ago

It really shocked me because I always saw PR as being able to able to get social media (because of the dialogue they have with the press and others) better than advertising (which is push media).

I agree with @KenMueller how does Gary know who is running the social media campaign? I guess if it’s very badly done he finds out. BUt in many instances it’s impossible to tell.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@KenMueller It makes me angry that he write a book, aimed toward business leaders, and uses his experience as a sweeping generalization. Sure, there are PR firms that don’t get it. And there are social media campaigns that haven’t worked. But, more often than not, those campaigns have been because of internal efforts (Kenneth Cole) not because of a PR firm.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@johnfalchetto @KenMueller I think, what he was saying, is it’s the companies he’s worked with that hired PR firms and he wasn’t happy with their work on the social media campaigns (in which case he would know). But it makes it sound like every social media campaign that ever ended badly was run by a PR firm. And that’s just not true.

davenicoll
davenicoll
5 years 16 days ago

Good to see you back on form Gini. I’d been thinking the same thing for some time, glad it’s being discussed.

adamtoporek
adamtoporek
5 years 16 days ago

Agree with John and Ken, how does he know who was behind the campaigns, unless, as you say, he is referring to those he has worked on. That aside, amazing how we see all see the world so differently. I know I’ve commented on this before here at SS, but I think in the aggregate good PR people (read — not spin doctors) are extremely attuned to consumers, because they have to be.

And BTW, did you know that 95% of traditional publishers are understaffed in their Editorial departments and allow unsubstantiated statistics to be published. 🙂

T60Productions
5 years 16 days ago

Hi Gini… you certainly nailed it when you talked about the days of scripted sound bites being gone and taking the French out of sales. Being on the video side of things, I can usually tell when a company has worked with a good PR pro. They’re more relaxed, engaging, and don’t get caught up in providing the “right” answer.

Not coincidentally… all those things lead to better PR/sales/marketing videos. Heck… it leads to better content in general.

–Tony Gnau

T60Productions
5 years 16 days ago

Hi Gini… you certainly nailed it when you talked about the days of scripted sound bites being gone and taking the French out of sales. Being on the video side of things, I can usually tell when a company has worked with a good PR pro. Their people are more relaxed, engaging, and don’t get caught up in providing the “right” answer.

Not coincidentally… all those things lead to better PR/sales/marketing videos. Heck… it leads to better content in general.

–Tony Gnau

DannyBrown
5 years 16 days ago

It;s funny and ironic, as VaynerMedia is responsible for two of the worst pitches I’ve seen. Maybe look at tidying up your own house first before taking a vacuum cleaner to someone else’s…

garyvee
garyvee
5 years 16 days ago

great points, thnx for the feedback

garyvee
garyvee
5 years 16 days ago

@DannyBrown sorry u feel that way man, would love to here what they were via email gary @ vaynermedia .com and I am sorry u feel that way!

garyvee
garyvee
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich @KenMueller guys I am so sorry that that one statement upset you, I was trying to make a point about push but understand your 2 cents and respect them and understand how that can be viewed, in the context of the chapter I think it makes much more sense, I am so sorry it was taken poorly

garyvee
garyvee
5 years 16 days ago

OH Gini I had a ghost writer and harper collins editor for Crush it so I am not sad at the comment about poorly written 😉 lol anyway I agree with much u are saying here and thank you for the yang to my ying

DannyBrown
5 years 16 days ago

@garyvee Cheers, Gary. Not sure if I still have, but one was around the Crush It book and the “lack of” information when we were asked about requests and how to work with a method that was better suited to our audiences.

It seemed there was a n approach more for basic numbers of reveiews, interviews, etc, as opposed to actually wanting to “be there” for questions.

This may have been the agency as it was pretty new at the time if I recall.

Nick
Nick
5 years 16 days ago

I will not respond to this post, I will not respond to this post, I will not respond to this post.

MimiMeredith
5 years 16 days ago
@garyvee has always seemed like a very passionate guy. His video on social media being the chair that breaks across duplicitous behavior is one of my all time favorites. Remember when I wrote that post about passion not being a requirement for leadership, Gini? This is why. When we get so caught up in our passion and feel so compelled to say whatever it is we believe with all our hearts, we often don’t time to think about what we’re saying. And this is what happens. I haven’t read the book, so won’t comment. But I’d like to say a)… Read more »
MimiMeredith
5 years 16 days ago
@garyvee garyvee has always seemed like a very passionate guy. His video on social media as the chair that breaks across duplicitous behavior is one of my all time favorites. Remember when I wrote that post about passion not being a requirement for leadership, Gini? This is why. When we get caught up in our passion and feel compelled to share what we believe, we sometimes don’t take time to think about the full import of our words. And this is what happens. While I’m on the subject of passionate diatribes, here are a few of my own: a) I… Read more »
MimiMeredith
5 years 16 days ago

@garyvee @ginidietrich @KenMueller Gary, I think it is neat that you listened, responded and are concerned about others opinions.

megmroberts
megmroberts
5 years 16 days ago
I’m going to try not to get too hung up on the negative generalizations made against the PR industry (ouch…), but I wanted to respond because I think this furthers the dialogue we are all constantly having regarding social media: what is the right content for social platforms and who, ultimately, is in charge of creating and distributing it? While I don’t think agencies are at fault 95% of the time, I do think many people (internally and externally) who touch social tend to use it as a push channel rather than as a community building tool – which I… Read more »
Jmodio
Jmodio
5 years 16 days ago

I was a community manager for Gary briefly for one of his agency’s clients. It didn’t work out.

Jmodio
Jmodio
5 years 16 days ago

Interesting article Gini. I was a community manager briefly for VM, unfortunately it didn’t work out.

NancyD68
5 years 16 days ago
Wow. Really impressed that @garyvee is here and responding. I see both sides of this, and boy does our company need a PR firm! (since it is only a matter of time before one of my bosses does something..) I gave Gary’s book to one of my bosses to read. Hopefully he does and takes it to heart. My bosses want content that “makes us sound smart” this concerns me. I write simply because i see the value in a nice, clean post that makes sense and is not too wordy. One of my bosses asked me “What was the… Read more »
jonbuscall
5 years 16 days ago

I can understand this kind of statement more in a presentation because you can get the paralinguistic element of it too – it’s an exaggeration, Gary’s looking for a reaction. But to be fair to Gary, I just didn’t take that sentence seriously when I read it first time around. It was more about throwing down the gauntlet.

That said, I do think it’s good to take this up Gini because so much sweeping statements get peddled out and shared all across the community and can do damage.

*Kudos GV for joining in the conversation here !

patrickreyes
patrickreyes
5 years 16 days ago
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. From a perspective of the agency model to how companies should be staffed and organized. At a high level, social media and community management are part of a larger marketing strategy. Having an organization that knows how to have conversations with people is important and that’s why I’ve often held the belief that PR people are better at marketing than marketers. In my experience, marketers have used the social tools as another platform for one way communication. I think @garyvee and @ginidietrich would agree that real time conversation is where the opportunity… Read more »
jeanniecw
jeanniecw
5 years 16 days ago
2 things I love about this post: Gini and Gary. I’ve seen Gary speak a few times now and I absolutely adore the way he just puts it out there when he speaks. I also appreciate how genuine he is about hanging around for people afterwards. But I agree with your points here about the book. I, too, read Crush It but not Thank You Economy. I love the IDEAS of both. And I think in a way Gary’s response to the whole PR thing is what’s been done poorly in the PR industry, as you point out. The thing… Read more »
PatrickStrother
PatrickStrother
5 years 16 days ago

“Publicity is one tiny piece of PR.” Exactly correct Gini! Why is it so hard for the PR business to get this really basic and simple point across. Regarding push, we actually overtly define our approach to PR as pull.

PattiRoseKnight
PattiRoseKnight
5 years 16 days ago

Gini is 100% correct when she says Publicity is one tiney pice of PR. When will the rest of the world understand that?

Leon
Leon
5 years 16 days ago
G’Day Gini, I’ve heard of putting cats among pigeons. But putting Ginis among Garys……..Wow! Maybe it gets back to Robert Gunning’s famous dictum. “Write to express not to impress.” What you say to entertain and arouse the masses at aconference can look rather severe on a printed page. And as privacy no longer exists, it’s open season on everything you write. Anyway Gini, it’s good to see you going in to bat for your profession. Have you read “The Decline of Marketing and the Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries? It’s a useful tome, even for unidentified arms!… Read more »
Nick
Nick
5 years 16 days ago

I seriously will not respond to this post, I seriously will not respond to this post, I seriously will not respond to this post……..

TheJackB
5 years 16 days ago
I think that it has become fashionable for people to talk about bootstrapping their business. And what I mean is that many people interpret that as meaning that as @ginidietrich said they have resources that allow them to circumvent the middle man. It is not just in PR. I hear it all over the place and it is foolish. Access to resources/tools is not indicative of skills or experience to use them. Sometimes the idea of doing it yourself is idiotic. You wouldn’t let someone watch a few videos of surgery and then operate on you. There is a reason… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@garyvee You are fantastic at video and knowing wine so I’ll give you that! I’m just sad that such a blanket statement was made in a book that A LOT of business leaders will read. Is this statement based on your own experience? I know a lot of the botched social media campaigns have been by internal folks. I also know I’m biased because PR is my profession, but we’re not all bad.

(P.S. thanks for taking the time to stop by)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@MimiMeredith @garyvee I agree with Mimi. Most people won’t take the time and I really appreciate that you did.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@davenicoll LOL! I haven’t been on a rant in a while. I’m on one tomorrow, too. 🙂 This whole argument over who own social is ridiculous.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@Nick Chicken.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@adamtoporek Ha at your BTW! LOL! And I have a BTW for you…we were talking about you in our staff meeting today. We’d like to have you back!

Nick
Nick
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich No, I just have to share an office… 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@T60Productions Totally agree. And it’s not totally up to PR to do that for companies. It’s everyone’s job to provide better content.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@Nick Chicken x 2

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@DannyBrown You have to love it when the man answers the critics! @garyvee

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@MimiMeredith You crack me up. LOL

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@megmroberts As a matter of fact, a much bigger conversation that is going to happen here tomorrow. I was part of #bizforum on Wednesday night, where we talked about where social belongs. SO MANY opinions. I have one, too. 🙂

And…I haven’t forgotten about blogging the PR/bloggers manifesto. Next week!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@Jmodio Mind sharing with us why it didn’t work out??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@NancyD68 The bigger issue, Nancy, is that these kinds of blanket statements are where business leaders (your bosses) are getting their information. And it’s just not true. There are bad PR pros and bad PR firms. There are bad ad pros and bad ad agencies. But to say an entire industry ruins something is ludicrous.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@jonbuscall But how many business leaders understand this is a blanket statement? That’s what bothers me. Gary has HUGE influence. This kind of statement can damage an entire industry.

LimelitePR
LimelitePR
5 years 16 days ago
I agree with your statements 100% Gini. PR professionals aren’t gatekeepers; we are facilitators. I now spend more time on building (or improving) systems and processes within our clients infrastructure so that they can confidently respond in a timely and direct manner to their public. I find that most advertising agencies want to control the channels on behalf of the client rather than empower them to build the relationships on their own through the most appropriate channels. I believe that PR’s media relations background/training has helped us understand the (extreme) demands of dealing with the public. If you don’t know… Read more »
DavidM
DavidM
5 years 16 days ago

Gini – great post! I’m so tired of hearing biased and generally uninformed anti-PR rants. Yes, there are many bad PRs out there whose inept social media activities have tarred our profession but there are many, many good ones whose clients enjoy great success.

I also really liked your comment about publicity only being one element of PR. We are a multi-discipline profession and a skilled practitioner can deliver unequaled value in many areas of the marketing mix.

Jmodio
Jmodio
5 years 16 days ago
@ginidietrich They didn’t really make it clear. It was my first real job, so I was hired entry level, as a “community manager.” I started out in a bit of a hurry during SXSW, the entire office was off to Texas. I was in NYC working on reports and Radian6 going over every tweet, fb post, photo and video from the even, measuring sentiment and categorizing. I then got assigned to my first client, running it’s FB and Twitter. The client was a fictional character, on a trial basis. It was under a microscope. I got called in the Friday… Read more »
rachaelseda
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich @megmroberts I love it! Great post and points made here. Can’t wait to hear your opinion on where social belongs, of course you wouldn’t be the Gini we love without an opinion!

By the way Gini, I listened to “Crush it” on audio which was very entertaining, definitely a better medium for him.

EdwardMBury
EdwardMBury
5 years 16 days ago

This kind of unsubstantiated nonsense should be ignored. It’s designed to grab attention, rather than inform or inspire dialog. For the record, Media Relations makes up 2 percent of the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations. And, for the record, I am a member of the Universal Accreditation Board, which administers and grants the APR credential.

johnfalchetto
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich Yes but @garyvee said it! @NancyD68

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