Tannebaum shares his experience with hiring a PR firm when he launched a law practice years ago, back when “social media” meant using a pay phone at the bar. Though money was tight, he knew his venture needed promoting, and he didn’t have the skills or time to try it on his own.
Rarely have I encountered someone outside the public relations field who gets it like Tannebaum does. He laments the rush by his peers to hire digital marketing firms as a single solution, drawing a strong distinction between the benefits of a marketer and those of a public relations practitioner.
While a web presence is essential, he writes, “many of those [digital marketing firms] are former traditional marketers that now want you to believe they have the secrets to the internet because no one wants them to produce a brochure anymore.”
He adds, “You may find it better to actually meet the people that can help you build your business, rather than hope they are pointing and clicking their way to your bank account.”
The key is building relationships—and that’s quality public relations.
“What a good PR agent does well is to put you together with the right people and events, and keep you away from the wrong ones,” says Tannebaum.
It’s true that the line between marketing and communications continues to blur, hence the “marcom” moniker I often see (and dislike). And PR still struggles a bit with measuring its impact, which isn’t usually a challenge in marketing—much harder to measure a relationship than it is to gauge increased sales from an ad campaign or clicks on a web site.
By no means am I dissing marketing; it’s fundamental to growing a business or service. But I think we’re turning down the wrong road when abandon real relationships for digital ones. This is as true for business as it is for individuals.
Public relations is more than a news release, a Facebook post or a good story in the local paper. It’s about connecting with living, breathing human beings, helping them understand you and your enterprise as you strive to know them and their needs.
More than ever.