Yeah, Well Your Agency Is Killing Unicorns

Daniel Stein recently wrote an attention-grabbing post over at Digiday entitled “HypeBusters: PR Agencies Are Ruining Facebook.” His basic argument: PR agencies are boring and uncreative, and their attempts at engagement are doomed to fail. The right people to manage Facebook pages are, apparently ad agencies. Guess which he works for.

I’m not going to lie — I’m dismayed at the juvenile back-and-forth that’s going on between different marketing disciplines over social media, with posts like this one or like this from Search Engine Journal previously. Didn’t people ever learn how to play nicely with others?

A tale of false arguments

Let’s start with the particular post in question. The primary issue here is the false dichotomies that are put forward. Why does everything have to be black and white?

Why does content have to be purely either “news, offers and the occasional contest” or “developing a brand’s purpose”? Can’t it be a blend, with some variety?

Where is the evidence that PR agencies can’t “do” creative? Isn’t it possible that agencies of all stripes could be creative?

The reality is that multiple partners are often involved in a successful Facebook effort. We frequently work closely with agencies of multiple stripes, and often help clients to develop governance frameworks so that each can bring their respective strengths to the table across multiple activities within a single channel.

Rather than throw up false assumptions about other agencies, look around. These over-generalizations just don’t hold true.

Shades of grey

I could point to Facebook pages we manage with hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans; or to multiple highly-engaged Twitter accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, and use that as evidence you that only PR agencies can do this well.

I could point to examples of advertising agency-driven properties that completely fail because there’s nothing but superficial style over substance, and use that as evidence that ad agencies are ruining social media.

This would fit with the approach of the posts I mentioned above.

I won’t, because neither of these claims are true. This isn’t black and white.

Integrate for success

People who argue that only their discipline can “do” social media and that XYZ discipline is ruining it either have no idea what they’re talking about or are lying to you to get attention.

I’ve argued for a long time that effective social media, conducted over the long term and with actual business value, is derived from the integration and cooperation of agency partners. It doesn’t come from petty bickering and competition — from “my agency type is better than yours” behaviour — between so-called partners who don’t play nicely in the sandbox.

Enough with the attention-grabbing BS headlines and false arguments of superiority, already. Acknowledge that different disciplines can learn from each other, that there’s no “one ring to rule them all” and work nicely with your agency partners to do the best job you can for the client.

You know, cooperate. Like adults do.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.