And the battle twixt technocrats and luddites rages

March 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm 2 comments

Sally Saville Hodge

One of the never-ending discussions in both the PR/marketing blog world and in related traditional media focuses on who gets it and who doesn’t when it comes to social media strategies. By now, it’s become obvious. Only a chosen few apparently get it.

The most recent salvo, picked up by the media and bloggers alike, was issued in the form of a recent survey of senior level corporate marketers by TNS media intelligence and Cymfony, a marketing influence analytics firm. Agencies – marketing, advertising and PR – are all behind the eight-ball, was the consensus: They lack practical experience and tend to try to shoehorn traditional tactics into social media space.

To me, this study shows some flaws. For starters, only 70-some senior level corporate marketers were included in the survey, and those apparently with Fortune 500-level firms like Hewlett Packard, Hyundai and Johnson & Johnson. That’s not a huge base. Moreover, to my mind, such players have the financial flexibility and the human capital that smaller businesses don’t of being able to take the risk of experimenting.

And for all their talk, yes, big businesses are shifting more of their budgets to social media, but the lion’s share is still directed toward traditional channels. To be sure, a study last year (subscription required) by Ad Age of major advertisers’ spending showed the most growth in non-measured media (including some forms of digital communication, like paid search). But nearly 60 percent of their ad spend still goes to TV, print and some forms of Internet advertising.

Bottom line, though, is that I find this ongoing conversation both troublesome and irritating.

On one hand, the smug superiority of many of the social media specialists is irksome. (One tells ClickZ’s Mike Grehan that she believes traditional PR shops are “on their way out.”) Do they think they invented this next best thing? Do they truly think the once and future interests and needs of all audiences are met solely through this one channel? Please.

But I also understand the disdain they feel for some — too many? – of the traditional shops that don’t even try to grow some modicum of understanding of the power some of these new vehicles have to grow a brand. Call it inertia. Call it lazy. Call it incurious. Or something else.

Personally, I put it down to something else. Like the “order taker” mentality that is way too prevalent, both among agencies and professionals on the client side. If clients and employers aren’t pushing for it, why should PR and marketing professionals move themselves to advance along the learning curve? Other factors: Fear of failure. Risk aversion. Discomfort with change.

I agree with what the senior level marketers seemed to be telling TNS and Cymfony. Those of us whose clients and bosses aren’t pushing us to test these new waters should at least be trying them on our own accounts and measuring how they’re working. That way, we’re in a much better position to recommend some of these strategies that might augment what’s being done on the traditional side.

There are experts out there who are willing to share, especially when there might be an opportunity to partner on business in the future. We’ve found them and tap into them regularly, and never once has anyone with my shop been called a Luddite (even if some of us might deserve it)!

And for heaven’s sake. Anyone who doesn’t have “familiarity with social media and search” as a prerequisite for new hires needs to wake up. These folks are out there, too. Bill Sledzik, who teaches PR at Kent State writes about making his students blog – or they fail. “You won’t grasp the ‘zen’ of Web 2.0 until you become one with the medium,” he writes.

As much as some wish they would, the new communications channels are not going away. In fact some are expanding on a monthly basis. Instead of resisting and lamenting halcyon days gone by, marketers need to stop whining, hold their nose and jump into the deep end of the social media pool.

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Entry filed under: Agency Management, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Strategy, New/Social Media, Resources.

Getting the viral marketing thing Fun with typos

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill Sledzik  |  March 11, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Enjoyed the post and appreciate the link. I think this passage really summarized the issue:

    “On one hand, the smug superiority of many of the social media specialists is irksome. (One tells ClickZ’s Mike Grehan that she believes traditional PR shops are “on their way out.”) Do they think they invented this next best thing? Do they truly think the once and future interests and needs of all audiences are met solely through this one channel? Please.”

    Most of the so-called “traditional” PR shops will change and will survive. They always have. These are smart people who are studying Web 2.0 as they have every other shift in the landscape for the past 100 years. But the smart ones are not embracing Web 2.0 as the holy grail. Social media as A tool that can help their clients, not THE tool. You don’t have to drink the KoolAid to “get it.”

    Reply
  • 2. Sally Hodge  |  March 12, 2008 at 3:26 am

    Obviously, I do feel there’s a place for tradition, and perhaps there’s room for shops that actually eschew Web 2.0 — and pass assignments on to specialists. But what’s worrisome to me are the shops that don’t even try to grow their knowledge base, whether they want to offer these tools or not. It’s called “growing as professionals,” and that’s how the PR brand gets tarnished. And, by the way, thank you for being a voice of reason out there…and keeping an eye on our contributions to the conversation!

    Reply

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