Is New Media for PR Pros or Marketers?

Yesterday I spent a few hours downtown at the first BarCamp Nashville. I met Michael, the blogger behind Marketing Monster (thanks to Chris for the introduction) and he and I were talking about how we both have our degrees in public relations but work in marketing. It got me thinking about how new media marketing is really much more geared toward those of us with a a PR background/training and here's why I think that:

New media marketing is largely unpredictable and uncontrollable. It works on its own time frame and cannot be forced or it's quickly recognized as contrived and fake. When new media marketing works, it does so with a grassroots growth or viral explosion that seems to come from nowhere. It's all the stuff that PR professionals live with and love about the business. It's the idea of dropping a few hooks in the water to catch some really big fish...though in new media the value of a "big fish" is not simply the weight of a single fish (like a story in the New York Times for instance) rather the cumulative weight of thousands of smaller fish like bloggers, online video creators, podcasters, social networking friends, and shared photo references.

Marketers, especially the most traditional ones, seem to have trouble with the new media because they don't think like PR people. They are accustomed to complete control over the message, image, creative development and brand. They don't have ears to listen because they operate with one way messages. This is doubly bad because it means they talk only when they have planned to and are not prepared when a response in necessary.

Here's what the disconnect seems to boil down to: the marketers are the ones focused on the emerging technology while the PR pros are not giving it the same attention. So while on the one hand you've got PR people with arguably the best mindset for new media marketing due to their inherent thinking, they don't seem to have the knowledge or interest (I'll have a personal example of that here on the blog in a few days.) Then on the other hand you see the marketers who have quickly seen the value of new media and salivate all over themselves for a big score but they don't naturally have the best mindset to really do it right and end up making themselves look worse. Chris discovered an example of this two weeks ago.

Maybe new media will show us the closest convergence of PR and marketing that we've known. Maybe some PR firms will realize they have an opportunity to compete with ad agencies and marketing firms now. Maybe in the future there won't even be PR firms, ad agencies, and marketing firms because they're all rolled into creative communications companies that do it all. Maybe corporate communications offices and marketing divisions will do the same. Maybe it's time for you to start moving this direction today.

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