Dec 10 2007
You can feel the tension.
Consider the following post titles from the past two months:
I opted out of last week’s customer service meme. It didn’t necessarily agree with me (I’m having a hard time seeing a PR pro executing technical customer service), and it seemed to be an extension of a larger trend.The trend: Everyone’s trying to define the social media box. The current labels don’t fit anymore.
The Real Issue: Goodwill versus Transactions
Professor Bill Sledznik has an outstanding post that analyzed the differences between the PR and marketing disciplines, “Why I don’t trust marketing.” His beef was that too many 30-something PR bloggers blend marketing and PR, and in process defined marketing and PR. Check this out:
PR involves adaptation of behavior â€” a process through which organizations work to align themselves with the needs of publics… We must advocate for our clients but also for the stakeholders they impact.
…marketing is the process of getting goods and services to customers using those 4 Ps we learned about in college: product, price, placement and promotion.
These definitions are absolutely correct for the modern marketing and PR function in a traditional company. However, I think this division is a lost cause within social media tool sets (maybe because I’m 30-something). Convergence is upon us. But Sledznik’s accurate definitions describes the convergence crisis. It’s the tension between PR’s mission to create goodwill between organizations and stakeholders, and marketing’s mission to deliver return on investment (ROI).
This crisis between goodwill and transaction is an inevitable result of tools that cross disciplines. Yet because they are multi-disciplinary tools, it’s important to comprehend all aspects. Whatever box you’re coming from, to be successful in social media I believe you must understand the classic purpose of PR: “the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.”
We’ve seen numerous examples over the past few weeks (most notably Facebook’s Beacon) where placing transactions before goodwill has resulted in more corporate blow-ups. To me, the true tension revolves around the primary outcome.
Marketing needs transactions, but as we have seen, forcing this doesn’t work. More than ever permission (a result of goodwill) must occur before marketing occurs. Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing vision may finally be coming to fruition.
Two of my social media experiences (Goodwill and Godsmack lead singer Sully Erna’s book “The Paths We Choose”) demonstrated that success occurred when calls-to-action were discretely available to an engaged social media community. That being said, those results were an intended by-product of goodwill, but not the primary outcome of our outreach efforts. People loved the fashion and Sully’s work enough to click through for more.
Will this convergence spill over into the traditional marketing department, forcing more PR outcomes into traditional marketing disciplines? Or will social media PR and marketing be its own unique discipline? The future is uncertain, and no one really knows.