I spent the weekend in Slovenia, speaking at the Bledcom 2008 Conference where the theme was Integrated Marketing Communication, exploring the relationship between Marketing and PR in Integrated Marketing Communication. I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the more controversial panels.
IMC Panel at Bledcom in Slovenia: L-R: Dejan Vercic, Me, Paul Willis and Ralph Trench
Quick background: There is an established discontent between Marketing and PR…and this clash is amplified in the Academic World. Many scholars are concerned that Marketing will threaten the credibility of PR and sorely limit what PR is to merely publicity and promotion.
So, I have to admit, I’m not surprised that the panel I was on was so controversial.
I spoke on PR in marketing mix modeling, and how organizations are evaluating PR activities against sales…often considered a no-no, because PR’s value transcends superficial sales figures (a point I agree with to some extent, though I don’t agree with scholars who think you can’t connect relationships with revenue).
Two other presentations on the same panel were even more intriguing (read: controversial).
Dejan Vercic and his wife Ana Vercic set out to prove that an Editorial has more impact on consumers than an Ad…only to find that the difference is negligible. (I was actually shocked by this…in an age when Advertising is supposed to be dead, you’d think editorials would carry serious credibility…)
But perhaps the most heated debate came from a presentation by Ralph Trench and Paul Willis from Leeds, UK…on public relations’ inclusion in guerrilla marketing. Ethics in PR is a huge deal…as it should be, but the word “ethics” in PR often gets translated into transparency. When Trench and Willis discussed some successful PR campaigns where a leading alcohol manufacturer created a new brand and used guerrilla PR techniques to get the word out (i.e. not being up front about the parent company), some in the audience were more than a little upset. One raised her hand and said she would teach her PR students to ignore such tactics (I guess she’s never heard of P&G, who don’t put their name prominently on ANY of their products).
Now…I do believe in ethical PR. I believe in transparency, too. But teaching students to ignore such tactics only makes the problem worse…because when they get into the work force, they’ll be under-skilled (PR is quite often used behind the scenes in a “guerrilla” fashion to create hip and trendy brands) and, students won’t have a clue how to manage viable communications tactics like Guerrilla Marketing.