This month, Todd Defren opined on the PR-Squared blog that public relations, as a distinct discipline, no longer exists. Marketing, Defren argues, is now the “umbrella under which all other disciplines fall.”
Many PR and marketing professionals would agree.
“The gray line between marketing and PR is (rightfully) diminishing …,” wrote one communications professional in response to a Vocus survey on Integrated Communications earlier this year. “Overall, marketing and PR have the same goal, and while they have different tactics to obtain that goal, their strategies need to co-align.”
But here’s the thing. They may be different, but the tactics of marketing and PR are beginning to converge along the path blazed by public relations. As Vocus’ CEO wrote on Twitter, “the convergence of PR and marketing is much less about PR becoming like marketing and more about marketing becoming like PR.” Marketing is adopting an approach similar to PR’s: the approach of chasing and earning third-party credibility.
The key is social media. Last year, I wrote on PRSA’s blog that experience with earned media has left PR practitioners in a good position to champion their social media strategy within their organization. PR’s emphasis on “earned” placement, as opposed to “bought,” is a perfect fit for social media communities who see through the commercialized approach that marketing often takes. The PR-style approach is now beginning to pay dividends across all areas of marketing.
Let’s take the example of link-building strategies, which used to be the domain of SEO marketers. Generating good content is becoming increasingly important here — after all, good content generates more links. Isn’t this a convergence with media relations — one of the fundamental pillars of PR? Lee Odden seems to think so. In his Search Engine Strategies video, he notes: “I found that our media relations people were pitching stories and getting links that affected the SEO results — and at the same time the link-building people were pitching for links and getting editorial coverage.”
SEO guru Eric Ward goes further. He recommends that “all link building strategy development and execution should originate and be managed by the public relations department or professional.” I don’t entirely agree. Good search marketers possess special expertise that still has a place in any link-building strategy. That said, SEO teams could certainly benefit by applying some PR techniques to their work.
PR suddenly has a newfound respect, which is the result of the growth of social media’s importance to marketing. Madison Avenue is increasingly recognizing the “higher strategic importance” of PR, writes Stuart Elliott in the New York Times, noting that “public relations agencies are excelling in ‘understanding the changing dynamics of the marketplace,’ as what happens with a campaign in social media and earned media has become as important as its presence in paid media and owned media.”
That change is now happening all around us. The way I see it, marketing is starting to look more and more like PR — and I believe that’s a good thing.
I’ll be delivering a presentation on this subject at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogres, and invite you to join me.
Kye Strance, director, product management, Vocus, has held a variety of positions including account executive and a member of the Vocus consulting team, over the past 10 years. Vocus is a provider of on-demand software for public relations management, including media relations, news distribution and news monitoring. Vocus is used by over 3,700 organizations worldwide and is available in five languages. Connect with Kye on LinkedIn and on Twitter @VocusPR.
Join Kye for his Conference session, “The Re-Emerging Trend for Integrated Communications,” at the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, October 16–19 in Washington, D.C.!
Great piece. I think that the line between marketing and PR has been getting blurry as people become savvier consumers of media. I wonder if it is in part because irony is becoming the national standard of humor, so that many marketing/advertising statements that are full of passion or promise are viewed skeptically. It will be up to us public relations professionals to navigate the social media waters where an influencer may not hold a job behind an anchorperson’s desk or at a newspaper.