The overlap between marketing and public relations

February 28, 2011 6 comments

In many of my bios, I say that I’ve been in marketing and PR for 15 years. My first real job was as a graphic production artist in the PR department of a labor union, and after that I became a marketing writer.

In the last few months, however, I’ve had enormous difficulty defining where the line is between marketing and PR. A lot of what I’ve been asked to do as a marketing professional is within some official definitions of “public relations.” I write press releases, for example, and I have been the point of contact for industry analysts and have arranged meetings with industry reporters.

I have usually thought of the defining line as really going out and pushing for publicity, though. Yes, I can call a few of the analysts and reporters I know, but if you really want to make a push to get your product or service reviewed in a national or international publication, that’s not where my strengths are.

However, as I’ve been participating in PR chats on Twitter (#pr20chat and #solopr are two that I try to make every week), I’ve heard from PR professionals that they really don’t like defining themselves as publicists. This has really come to a head over the last couple of weeks when the New York Times let a business owner rant about PR, and several notable PR professionals responded to it (Kellye Crane’s great piece is here, and Gini Dietrich has a great piece here).

Which makes me feel dumb, since I’ve been using “PR” and “publicity” interchangeably, and, jeez, I even worked in a PR department. Unsurprisingly, the experts are vague about the definition of public relations. Grunig and Hunt (1984) define it as the management of communication between an organization and its “publics” (wow, I didn’t think that we were nouning adjectives until 1995!), but that covers advertising and marcom, two areas that are in the realm of marketing, not PR. Analyst relations, media relations, labor relations, and internal communications are other areas that are supposedly covered under the PR umbrella—but it still gets me wondering:

Where is the line between marketing and public relations? And if I don’t know where it is, having worked in the field(s) for over a decade, do both the marketing and PR industries need to reset customer expectations when starting projects?

Categories: Marketing

The secret for successful startups’ go-to-market strategies

February 17, 2011 2 comments

Many startup companies struggle with funding to get their products ready for prime time. In discussions with one of my clients, we developed a foolproof, critical path to market that I expect will revolutionize product planning and management for years to come.

You’re welcome.

Good info for Facebook privacy settings

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Last night, I presented at the Sacramento Social Media Club’s “Relationships and Social Media” gathering. My section was on “Facebook Privacy Settings 101.” I listed some great articles and resources at the end of my presentation, and many of those attending wanted those URLs.

So without further ado, here they are:

I had a great time and the event and I hope those in attendance found my presentation useful (and entertaining)! When the slideset is available, I’ll link to this as well.

Categories: Livetweeting

Are you a sociopath? Become a Sprint customer!

January 25, 2011 1 comment

Sprint, according to Research and Markets, is expected to hemorrhage market share over the next five years. So Sprint—which does not have access to the iPhone—has decided to become aggressive in their pricing. Their current pricing promotion is that $69.99 gets you unlimited everything, while it only gets you voice calling with “the other guys.”

It’s an interesting promotion, because it goes directly after the smartphone power users that Verizon and AT&T have made their corporate money on over the last few years. But one of their advertising campaigns gets it all wrong.

In one ad, a sports doctor tells a severely injured football player that he shouldn’t worry: the video of the player getting injured, the changes to the doctor’s fantasy team, and the texts he’s sending are all included in Sprint’s monthly service. In another, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend while texting him at their table in the restaurant; she tells him it’s okay, because her Facebook updates (to single) and dating-site browsing is all included in Sprint’s monthly service.

This is intended to be funny, and it is, in a 30 Rock/The Office uncomfortable-humor kind of way. Many participants in online forums praise the spots’ humor, rightly calling out that it’s satire. And lo, much LOLing was had.

The problem is that Sprint wants the viewer to be a Sprint customer. And the Sprint customers in the commercials, as absurd and satirical as they are, are horrible human beings. They completely lack empathy for the people they’re with. They are nasty, clueless people. And Sprint is implying, through the ad, that they want the viewer to be just as horrible as their customers. This ad casts Sprint customers in a negative light; I suggest that in many viewers, it will provoke an emotional reaction in that they don’t want to be identified as Sprint customers. I certainly don’t want to be Dr. Douche.

Is this situation funny enough to save this commercial? Is there a way Sprint could have formulated this ad without implying that their customers are sociopaths?


If you are evil in this life, you come back as a marketing writer for Summer’s Eve.

August 28, 2010 1 comment

On Facebook recently, several of my friends have commented on an advertisement by Summer’s Eve that appeared in Woman’s Day magazine. Want to ask for a raise at work? Well, we’ve got a whole bunch of ideas to help you, says Summer’s Eve. And the #1 idea? Use our Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash–and don’t forget our Summer’s Eve Feminine Cleansing Cloths for that mid-day pick-me-up! (As Austin Powers says, it’s for giving your undercarriage a bit of a how’s-your-father.)

I’m not sure who exactly thought this was a good idea. Today’s woman most likely does not want to read an ad linking their value as an employee with how fresh-smelling their naughty bits are.

It’s easy to make fun of this ad. The ad says all the wrong things. The “tips” have very little thought put into them and are of little use to anyone who actually needs to ask for a raise. (Eat a good breakfast? Really?) And by placing the “wash your vajayjay” tip at #1, the ad is sending the message that Summer’s Eve has no interest in actually helping women get raises–they really only care about using this headline as a ruse to shill their product.

I think it would be difficult–excruciatingly, mind-numbingly difficult–to work in the marketing department for Summer’s Eve. Imagine, for a moment, that you are a marketing writer for Summer’s Eve. And the ad placement people come to you and say, “Hey, great news! We just got a good deal on a full-page ad in Woman’s Day! We’ve got to send it to graphics by the end of the week, so come up with a concept and copy by Thursday!”

If you’re a child of the eighties, like me, you know the phrase “Mom, do you ever have that–that ‘not-so-fresh’ feeling?” And as a child of the eighties, you were confused, and then, later, you realized what it meant, and then you chortled and made fun of it, and then changed the channel whenever the ads came on. But now, it’s 2010, and you’re working for Summer’s Eve, and you’re amazingly grateful to have a job in a down economy, and you look at the gaping maw of a blank page before you, and you think, “What horrible crime against humanity did I commit in a past life to have to come up with a full-page douche ad in 48 hours?”

Announcement: now blogging for Endeavors Technologies

June 10, 2010 2 comments

Just a short note to tell y’all that I’m blogging for Endeavors Technologies for a bit. Endeavors has an application virtualization and streaming technology called Application Jukebox that I’m pretty impressed with. Using a client about the size of an IM app, it streams Windows apps to your desktop — and the app acts just like it would if it were locally installed.

The thing that impresses me is that it handles Adobe Creative Suite apps perfectly. Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign activate within 90 seconds. (For those of you out there who are graphic designers, can you imagine installing Photoshop in a minute and a half?)

The technology is targeted toward a few different audiences: software vendors who’d like to offer their products as a service without re-engineering; distributors who want to offer a SaaS model and track usage; e-commerce providers who’d like to offer Windows software; and enterprise IT departments.

Disclaimer — they’re paying me to do some marketing work for them (although they didn’t pay me to write about them on my personal blog), but I like the management team and the technology a lot, and I hope to make them more successful in the marketplace. If you’ll be in Chicago next week, we’ll be at BriForum, booth 501.

The blog is here — I’m starting with the different types of application virtualization. Let me know what you think!

Categories: Tradeshows

You have one product. How many brands should you have?

June 3, 2010 1 comment

Let’s say you work for a company that has one product. How many brands do you think you should have?

When I phrase this question like this, it’s pretty obvious that the answer is “one.”

In reality, though, companies with one product rarely show a single brand to the public. They almost always show two brands: a company brand, and a product brand. And companies who do this can never answer why they’ve chosen to split their brand in two. The company is associated with the single product they sell; a single message, a single graphic idea, a single communication goal will help sell much more product than two messages, two ideas, and two goals.

Sometimes, companies get it right. In the late 1990’s, Claris Software had several products, but the development team behind one of their products, ClarisWorks, left the company. Claris decided that FileMaker, its database product, was the only product worth keeping, and changed the company name to — wait for it — FileMaker. (If Claris had been the stronger brand name, they could have changed the product name to Claris Database.)

There’s nothing wrong with having a company name and a separate product name. But promoting both names and brands is a waste of marketing effort and a waste of money. Your audience only has room in their collective brain to associate a concept with ONE thing — either your product brand or your company brand — not both. That’s just the way the human mind works.

Some marketing experts will say that you can have an umbrella brand, a main brand, and sub-brands. While it’s true that you can create a brand hierarchy, your audience will only remember one of those brands with a product (or product line).

Some companies defend themselves with the argument that they plan to release more products, and they want to leverage their company brand. Leveraging an existing brand seems easier than launching a new one. However, your audience has already made the decision to associate your first product with a certain brand; if they try to associate it with the second brand, it will weaken the branding for the first product–and probably won’t help the second product. There’s a reason why A-1 Poultry Sauce and Virgin Cola failed — and it doesn’t have anything to do with media outlets, marketing expenditures, or celebrity spokespeople. People simply didn’t trust the A-1 brand with chicken or the Virgin brand with soda.

Following this advice would lead you to create a house of brands (vs. a branded house — see more about that) should that second product get off the ground. I think a house of brands can be much stronger in the long run — and in the short run, your marketing budget (and your marketing department) will be grateful for your maniacal focus on a single brand.