Social Media vs Public Relations vs Advertising

By October 9, 2013marketing

Social Media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

Public Relations is the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by an organization or a famous person. The state of the relationship between the public and a company or other organization or a famous person.

Advertising is the act of producing promotions for commercial products or services.

Social Media vs Public Relations vs Advertising

I don’t really think there is any question that Social Media has taken over old time public relations. The old time public relations person was that guy who usually smoked and drank scotch at every meal. He would take out every publisher, writer and editor to his favorite steak restaurant in the hopes they would run some kind of story about his client. The PR person wanted to get their client in front of the public with some kind of positive story. And the gatekeeper was what we refer today as the traditional media: TV, radio, newspaper.

Social media has completely removed the gatekeeper. Today PR people are technically savvy and sit in front of a dual monitored computer sipping espressos and probably have never tried scotch.

I recently read a report that people believe and trust what they read on Facebook nearly 2 to 1 over what they see on traditional media. People trust their friends. They mistrust media.

It isn’t news that savvy companies have embraced Social Media. But I’m still surprised at how many companies still view Social Media and Public Relations separately. I believe they’ve become inseparably one entity. And companies need to be organized that way. They shouldn’t have a PR department and a Social Media department. I’ve been calling the combined department: Social Relations. If the term Social Relations sticks, you heard it here first.

The PR purists have never considered PR as advertising. Is Social Media closer to PR or Advertising? I consider Social Media closer to PR than Advertising. But with Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media modalities delving into advertising, the lines between PR, Social Media and Advertising are blurred. And all three should be considered as different elements of a comprehensive corporate marketing campaign and strategy. They should all share elements and you need all three to have a stable communications platform. But unlike direct response advertising, the slow burn of Social Media/PR takes longer to see the fruits. But unlike traditional PR, Social Media is real time. And in today’s constantly changing media environment, real time communications between a company and its customers is a key to success.

A Couple of Stories:

Early in the Social Media adoption I had a CEO tell me not to spend any time on Social Media. He didn’t see the benefits. Although I had a lot of respect for him, I ignored him. I started a very robust underground Social Media strategy. A year later he thanked me and I got a substantial raise. This company saw some great success.

A few years later at another company I had another CEO tell me to ignore Social Media. This really surprised me considering that Social Media had already shown itself to be beneficial to companies’ marketing strategies. This CEO was short-sighted and was more concentrated on “today’s” results than planning for long-term growth. Although I took leave to go to a more forward thinking company, I would put money on it that this company will change its tune towards Social Media, see stagnated growth, or worse. Time will tell.

Summing It Up

Companies need to change their Public Relations and Social Media strategy into one Social Relations strategy. And they need to make sure Advertising is working in concert with Social Relations to insure a clear message to its customers and potential customers.