Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Blurring lines between Marketing and PR

A few weeks ago I saw an offer on one of Amazon's local deals emails for an E-Careers e-Marketing and SEO course, so decided to sign up. It was around five hours of learning in total, all delivered online, so I finally managed to squeeze it in this week.

I'd expected there to be a lot of 'new' in this course for me. I wanted to find out more about what the key differences in the Marketing approach to digital would be from the PR. I didn't get that. Instead what I found was that a good portion of this 'e-Marketing' course was about PR.

On reflection, I'm not sure that I should have been surprised about this. The more I think about it, the more blurred the lines between Marketing and PR have become now, thanks to the internet. A large chunk of the course looked at how the two disciplines now work in partnership rather than Marketing being 'advertising' and PR being 'Media'. Neither have this neat categorisation any more. Instead both groups share responsibility for engaging in a dialogue with stakeholders.

Both Marketing and PR are engaging much more in two-way dialogue. It's much less about a broadcast (although the traditional techniques of catalogues, DM etc haven't disappeared entirely, and nor should they) and much more about listening to customers, finding out what they need, and how to respond to them. I've been learning about this in PR since I first joined the CIPR back in the mid 2000s. So it was interesting and relieving to hear the same from a Marketing perspective.

It was also interesting to see how much emphasis was put on content marketing. The course pushed hard on the importance of delivering great content to stakeholders that is segmented to support their particular need. With my PR hat on, corporate blogging, thought leadership, good content and a company news room all sit within corporate communications. But this course was calling all of this 'Marketing'. So really where does the difference lie?

I found myself wondering if the biggest gap is in how businesses split up their PR and Marketing teams by stakeholder. PR remain the gatekeepers for the media and that's undisputed. They also often own what is classed as 'corporate': so news that crosses all stakeholders. But within Marketing, the stakeholders being owned by a specific Marketing team is perhaps more specific. For example within academic publishing the group that support libraries will be a Library Marketing team. And the group that support researchers will be a separate team. Or often they will be split by the type of product that they are selling. Either way, is that really the only division between a PR and Marketeer now? I'm curious for additional views on this.

A few comments on the course itself:

As I've blogged in the past about how highly I rate my MOOC experiences so far, I have to say this online course delivery was somewhat irritating in parts. The functionality was on the whole comparable: you listened to online lectures, took multiple choice quizzes, and got the option to link to further reading. Yet you couldn't pause, rewind or fast-forward through the video material. You couldn't even work out how long each segment was, you had to just wait for it to stop then click to move on.

I also couldn't quite believe that the resources being pointed to in the social media marketing section were dated from 2008. Twitter didn't even get a mention! E-Careers really ought to review how relevant their materials are.

I hate to be nit-picky, but I also fail to see how a half-day's worth of learning equates to 'mastery'. That wording on the certificates is more than a little cringey...