Advertising, PR social media rowing in sync to meet client goals

Are Advertising and PR Still Relevant?

I remember the days when advertising people looked down at PR types. They had the mega budgets while the PR people toiled away on the leftovers writing press releases, arranging company events and the like.

Does Advertising Sell?

Advertising sells! Well, maybe not so much anymore as the preferred – and sometimes – only communications channel.

A story about a company in a prestigious newspaper like The New York Times has always been more valued more than an ad in the same paper – that reliable third-party endorsement.

The shrinking newspaper and magazine landscape is evidence that organizations are gravitating to other communications channels, particularly social media.

And what they are doing is not called advertising. They are reaching out to their customers through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, webinars, and blogs. Increasingly, they want to interact with their customers at company-sponsored events, product samplings, and through community service.

Funny thing. It’s the PR people who are leading the way. They are writing the blogs, articles and opinion pieces. They are the ones creating community relations programs – like they always have – but now these communities are more often than not reached online. These are the company’s primary activities and not just an adjunct to advertising.

We’re Communicators

Here’s another thought: maybe the terms advertising, public relations, publicity, promotion and direct response should be consigned to the compactor. Those words just don’t seem to work in the new online communities that are forming like runaway amoebas.

The silos that separated advertising, public relations and marketing are eroding at a fast clip. Where before the ad and PR people fought over who got the bulk of the budget, clients are demanding a more collaborative approach to marketing their products and services.

They don’t care about titles. They want evidence that their advertising, PR, marketing, social media campaigns are rowing together, in sync, towards the same goal.

How about new titles like collaborators, community builders, prophets, enablers? Or maybe one word that summarizes everything we are: communicators.

Advertising? That’s so 20th century.

Leave a Reply


  1. Good points you make, Jeannette. Personally think a problematic issue is the amount of fake news from for instance Russia as well as paid content and advertising from Russian entities that hide their identity. Most likely such activities will erode faith in media and advertising, at least in Europe.

    • Catarina — agree totally that paid content is masquerading as real news. Our last election is evidence that legitimate communications channels are being polluted by very bad players.

  2. PR officers certainly do a lot of the background work and generally receive little recognition for it.  Without them, events and campaigns would not run efficiently.  With the rise of social media, companies and organisations need to be seen and heard and who better to ensure this takes place?

  3. Great blog, Jeannette. Years ago, when I worked as a PR professional at Booz Allen, we called what we did marketing communications, since our group really handled a combination of PR and marketing. Advertising at the big management consulting and accounting organizations in the late 70s and early 80s was frowned upon and considered kind of crass. The partners of those organizations even looked down on PR until they realized how much value added they got from a solid PR program, including media relations, compelling op-eds and byliners, strong news releases, provocative surveys and seminars, excellent collateral marketing materials and communications linkages with law firms, think tanks, universities and industry associations. Advertising, in some cases, was just icing on the cake. But as you say, when you boil it all down, it’s all about communication — especially in this age of social media.

    • Mark — professional services firms like Booz Allen and Marsh & Mclennan, where I headed up communications, definitely saw advertising and PR as “below the line” items. That is, they were considered expenses and not investments. A lot of that has changed, but many partners at these organizations still see communications as money coming out of their pockets.

    • Susan — the political climate has definitely polluted all communications channels; think Russian interference in the last election. What is real and what is fake?

  4. I know that advertising and PR have to take place–that’s how companies tell us about their products and how we simply have to have them. I wish that the whole marketing thing didn’t approach us like we’re stupid … and like women still do all the housework. 🙂

    • RoseMary — Agree about advertisers’ approach to women. I come out of advertising and, believe it or not, the ads used to be much worse!

  5. Fabulous post, Jeannette!

    You are so right. Online communities have definitely taken over from where former advertising and PR departments once tried. I love the term ‘community builders.’ As a blogger and author trying to build my ‘author’s platform’ it is indeed about building a solid community of people who actually care what I have to say.

    • Doreen — building communities of followers and customers is really at the heart of communications, even more so since the inception of social networks. You are doing everything right, in my view, because I learn so much from your posts and enjoy reading about your travels.

  6. I believe that it’s the pressure to prove their value that is driving changes in both advertising and PR. For years advertisers placed ads in newspapers, magazines and on TV and then claimed their ‘reach’ to be the circulation of the print pub or the TV program audience. Digital media provided a more definitive measure. When you could see how many people clicked on an ad or clicked through to a video, what many of their clients found out is that the results didn’t justify the spend. Similarly, PR used tradional measures of dubious value by counting clips or calculating ad equivalencies and now PR folks are struggling to find some way to quantify the ROI for what they do. I agree with you that the distinction between PR, marketing and advertising is going to continue to blur because they are all going after the same solutions: social, content marketing and native advertising.

    • Ken — PR people have been trying to quantify their ROI since the beginning of time. I spent the bulk of my career in PR and it was very difficult to persuade clients and top management to take it on faith that their PR dollars were getting results.

  7. I prefer “community builders” the most since it seems more encompassing in my mind, perhaps because it more directly implies effort being made on both ends to strengthen a bond. To some being a “communicator” can still be seen as too much of a one-way channel, even though it’s a given all communication is a process of negotiation. So many factors are at play.

    • Jeri — thanks for coming back to post your comment. When I taught a management consulting course at my former bank, we defined communications as a continuous loop between the communicator and his/her audience. It is a two-way conversation and if there is a breakdown in that loop, then there is a breakdown in mutual understanding.

  8. Interesting post. Marketing, advertising, and PR are just several forms of one thing, Communication.
    I am a little biased since I am a Communications Major. I believe all forms of these communications must be achieved if you want to reach maximum exposure. Each one has its own defined parameters, but also effects the others. As you stated in the article, the boundaries between them are eroding.

    • William — I agree that there is a role for each communication channel but they must be working in sync and not in the silos that have existed for so long in the majority of organizations.