I am looking forward to participating in Houston’s IS Conference tomorrow on a panel at the end of the day. Maggie McDonald, who blogs her heart out at Mags Mac and Cheese, will be the moderator and I will be joined by fellow panelists Michael Garfield, Aimee Woodall, Esther Steinfeld, Jay Steinfeld and J.R. Cohen.
I am not really sure how Maggie (@MagsMac) will heard this group of cats, but she started by sending us some questions to get to the bottom of how to incorporate the traditional communication disciplines of marketing, PR and advertising with social media.
How do you mix marketing, advertising and PR just right to make the most potent cocktail that both brings in demonstrable results and also builds the relationships necessary to sustain those results over time?
I have thought about this issue a lot, and while I don’t really drink martini’s all that often, I thought that the classic debate of bartenders everywhere might serve as an apt metaphor. Should all of the ingredients in good communication be Shaken or Stirred within an originization or strategic plan? In other words, what is the “mixology” of social media and classic communication?
Our clients, for the most part, are sophisticated veterans of social media and certainly are adept at communication. I hit on what works to start making this potent cocktail in a post about 5 Steps to Strategic Social Media Management and pondered it in a post in 2006 about what I then called Process PR in which I advocated a holistic approach. I also loved Brian Solis’ description of the social media role as a conductor, which brings to mind a lot of different instruments (discipline and tools) working together to create a masterpiece. Good communication is like that, which is why I named this blog Communication Overtones.
It's more than just Marketing!! Let's mix things up.
So Maggie started out by asking this question:
1. Define the difference between marketing, PR, social media and advertising.
This is where the martini metaphor started to percolate for me. It’s not so much what these disciplines ARE, but more about how they work together. From a post I wrote last year, I outlined the skills that each brought to the table. From that post:
- MARKETING is great at putting together communication that gets results
- PUBLIC RELATIONS is great at building and maintaining relationships, as well as creating informational content (PR is also great at carrying the needs and desires of stakeholders back to the organization)
- ADVERTISING is great at creating compelling and entertaining content that could go viral
When the communications disciplines are shaken together and are working as a team, it can be a potent combination. Here I think that shaking, rather than gentle stirring to preserve silos, is a better way to get that special alchemy that these disciplines can bring to each other.
Just think, relevant and interesting communication that gets results externally and makes positive change internally. Who doesn’t want that?
The problem is that the silos between these three disciplines (or should I say the battle lines?) have been well drawn, with the marketing and PR departments finding it hard to get a simple Facebook ad buy for a PR campaign without bureaucratic approvals and red tape. this is especially true in large organizations. Smaller ones can be more nimble and gain an advantage here.
I have also found that when communication brings in the rest of the organization in a lightweight strike team (read: a team that is nimble and can make decisions quickly) the overall social strategy usually is more effective and successful. Team members that are usually very helpful include the Customer Service team, Operations, Management, and an enlightened legal representative that really understands social media.
2. What is interactive marketing?
In many of the bigger companies, a position called interactive marketing is starting to become more important to the mix. This role often oversees social media, online properties and now increasingly, mobile. It is the effort of marketing to take on a more traditionally PR role, which is interacting with stakeholders; however, this can all too often be seen as a simple game or other “interaction” that is superficial.
Even so, this position may be the most well positioned in some organizations to blend marketing, PR and advertising — though advertising usually is still left on its own due to the way that it is budgeted.
3. Where do you start when you’re trying to develop a strategic communications plan for a client?
Strategic communications demands that you have a measureable objective. What do you hope to gain from interacting with the stakeholder and what can they reasonably hope to gain from you? I recommend setting relational objectives, which are at the intersection of what the company/organization needs to gain and what the customer/stakeholder hopes to gain.
Here is where I think that martini should be stirred. Traditional communications, like events and media outreach, should not be thrown out in favor of social channels, Instead the two should be artfully mixed to advance relationships with a community and drive results. This is more of an art than a science.
4. Can you give client examples of when social media was a good fit for a client? And when it wasn’t the best option?
Anytime a potential client wants to perfect the perfect message, and is deathly afraid of open conversation with stakeholders it is a sign that their culture is not ready for social media. We have had some of those clients. Also, people who don’t have the bandwidth or desire to shift resources are probably better off waiting, or taking baby steps with things they can handle as they grow culturally.
Social media is a good fit when a client has something interesting to say, when there is community that wants to engage, and when they are willing to hear what comes back to them and to make adjustments. It is also a good fit when they have something to offer to the community that no one else really can. One example of this is the recent Emergency Social Data Summit that was held in early August by the American Red Cross. The resulting wiki and the continued sharing and conversation on the #crisisdata Twitter hashtag show that this was a great way for the ARC to engage with its community.
5. If you decide the social media will work for a client, how do you decide what social media tools to use and what not to?
And finally the question that usually dominates the conversation. Should we have a Facebook page? What about Twitter? Do we need a private community? What tools should we use? What vendor should we engage?
I like to look at tools in context of the Social Media Ecosystem that a company or organization will participate in, this includes internal relationships as well as external ones and will encompass a number of tools, both online and off. The goals of the communication should dictate the tools. So, if you want to make Facebook a main driver for conversation, you might consider a blog to create content, and sharing that content on Facebook, along with a request for feedback. Then you might want to drive your Facebook fans to the Twitter account to participate in a fast moving contest. You can also use other channels such as YouTube and Flickr as outposts for content creation and sharing, and all of this can come back to your Facebook page or blog. None of the pieces can be seen in isolation, nor should they be seen as a messaging monolith (read: don’t auto post in all your channels with the same “message” unless that makes sense to the strategy).
Would love to hear how you would answer one of more of these questions, and if you are in Houston tomorrow, I hope to see you at the IS-Conference.
Photo Credit: Flickr Photo by Darwin Bell