Five Things PR Folks Can Learn About Social Media From Advertising

Photo symbolizing the divide between public relations and advertisingWe in the public relations industry seem to love to look down upon those on the advertising side of the communications industry when it comes to social media. They don’t get conversation, we tell ourselves smugly. They think in terms of one-way information pushing, not two-way dialogue.

Stop and think for a minute, though. Regardless of the media buy budgets, advertising agencies command big dollars. They land smart, creative people. They execute highly original ideas. They have a voice at a senior level. As much as folks on the PR side might hate to admit it, we can learn from the advertising folks. This is especially true as the different communications disciplines converge.

We’ve recently hired a creative director from the advertising side, and his perspective is breathing new life into our approaches.

So, what can we in PR learn about social media from the advertising side?

1. Scale matters

Relationships are important and conversation is key, but results are king. Successful businesses are built on scale – of sales; of profits; of customers. Advertisers understand that for a consumer-facing product to become a true success, it has to break outside small cliques and niches.

2. Creativity beats staid

As the public relations, marketing and advertising worlds converge, we increasingly find ourselves competing for the same business. This means we need to compete not just for strategic vision and execution, but also for creativity. What’s more, clients will pay for big, creative, results-focused ideas.

3. Measure, measure, measure

If we’re to go head-to-head with other disciplines, we need to measure the heck out of our programs. They certainly do, and they use it to make the case for their programs. This is one lesson I’ve found easy to adopt. I’m a big proponent of measurement and measurable objectives, so I welcome this.

4. Target your audiences

Remember all those ads you didn’t like? They weren’t targeted at you. Good advertisers are laser-like in their targeting as they know you can’t please everyone.

5. Craft your message carefully

I read a great piece the other day (unfortunately I don’t remember where) that said something like:

Good advertising sells product. Great advertising sells the aspiration behind the product.

In PR, we have an additional challenge when it comes to the publicity side – not only do we need (in some cases) to accomplish this, but we need to craft messages that get our clients in the paper in the first place. For, unlike on the advertising side, our coverage is earned with journalists rather than bought.

Rocket science? No. Important? Yes.

What else?