Scott: Embracing the New World of PR and Marketing
Posted At: February 27, 2013 9:05 P.M.
by Katie Sanders
The saying “Old habits die hard” can be applied to any industry today. If you are stuck in an organization that rejects new innovations or developments, you risk becoming irrelevant or ineffective. Author and keynote speaker David Meerman Scott warns of this danger as he explores the evolving industries of marketing and public relations in his books, blogs and speeches.
Scott’s “New Rules of Marketing and PR” compares the old ways with recent industry changes. A primary focus is put on Web marketing over interruption marketing and other older techniques. Scott said younger generations have grown up with Web marketing, while professionals in the industries for more than 10 years have experienced drastic change.
“It’s the biggest revolution in 550 years, since the invention of the printing press,” Scott said.
Web marketing has changed the way public relations practitioners and marketers communicate. It has shifted from only reaching out to the media to reaching publics directly.
“Companies who rely only on the [news] media are making a big mistake,” Scott said. “The PR superset has a wide variety of ways to get your activities and information to the public. Media relations are just one subset.”
Reaching different audiences
Although Scott said his audience may be mostly professionals who have experienced the long evolution of the PR and marketing industry, Tonya Nelson is introducing the book to her college students. Nelson, a freelance marketer and University of Alabama Honors College professor, uses the book in her Marketing Communication class.
Nelson said she approaches her students as she would any young professional and believes that is the best way to teach. She said the book presents the marketing and PR industry as “dynamic” in the sense that a wide variety of traditional and nontraditional skills are needed. Scott’s book gives students an opportunity to read and engage in the industry as if they were past graduation.
“I want students to know that, even though their formal education is over after graduation, they should be ready for a lifetime of learning,” Nelson said. “The book is real and relevant to that end.”
In Nelson’s view, the overall lesson of the book is adaptability, which Scott acknowledges as a part of the ever-changing industry, especially when dealing with your target market or publics.
“This book to me is not just about how the industry has changed; it’s about respecting the audience,” Nelson said. “Knowing them. Meeting their informational needs.”
Buy, beg, bug and earn
Content creation is a vital component in the new PR and marketing world. Scott said in the past there were three ways for an organization to gain attention: buy (ad space, paid promotion), beg (media pitching) and bug (interruption marketing, direct sales). While these techniques are not all together gone, the new technique is to earn attention through content.
Scott’s experience in the publishing business resulted in his heavy emphasis on content creation in marketing and PR.
“The publishing business is all about content creation and telling a story,” Scott said. He writes about the need for original content, either for an individual or an organization. Blogging is referenced several times in the third edition of the book, but Scott said changes may be made in the fourth edition.
“I’m not sure about the term ‘blogging,’” Scott said. “It sounds old fashioned. One should create text-based content that brands an organization.”
Blogging platforms are popular because they are easier to use than a traditional website, Scott said. Medium-length posts are highly indexed by search engines, another reason blogs are desirable. Scott said that your skills determine what platform is right for you, but the necessity for creative content does not change.
Nelson agreed with Scott’s value of content as a necessary skill for practitioners. “I always tell students, ‘You absolutely have to know how to write. But it’s more important to know what to write,’” Nelson said.
The city and the cocktail party
Content should not only appear in blogs or on a website. In his book, Scott compares the Web to a city, with social media as a “cocktail party.” Scott said he has been involved with most types of social media from the very beginning. He has written a blog since 2004, tweeted since 2008 and joined Facebook as soon as it was open to non-college students. His most recent social media experiment is Vine: he set up his account the day it launched. Social media is an opportunity to create a presence and captivating content. It’s the practitioner’s job to test and use any and all forms networking on the Web.
“I’m not afraid to fail,” Scott said when referencing trying different social media outlets. “I’m not afraid to start something new. I’m okay with starting something new and failing.”
This lesson parallels with what Nelson teaches her students and uses in her own professional life.
“The most valuable thing anyone can learn in business is that nothing fails like success,” Nelson said. “Just because you did something one time and it worked doesn’t mean that you’ll have that experience again. Always move and grow with the industry.”
The changing outlets of social media will also be updated in Scott’s new book edition. When he wrote his first edition, Twitter did not exist and Facebook was limited to college students. These changes have resulted in Scott writing a new edition every two years, with the fourth edition being released in July 2013.
David Scott said there were two big pieces of advice he would give to PR practitioners, especially younger members of the profession. First, he emphasized the need to create an online presence, as discussed above, through social media and published content. He said young practitioners need to venture beyond Facebook into areas like website and blog creation.
“Create original content based on an interest that will serve as something more important than your résumé when looking for an internship or a job,” Scott said.
The second piece of advice also pertains to social media. Twenty-five percent of companies forbid employees to use social media, Scott said. Reasons include they are scared that the employee will harm the brand or fearful that company time will be lost. When interviewing, Scott said to ask the organization if you, as an employee, are allowed to use social media.
“If the answer is no, if the company does not allow you to use social media, I want you to stand up, leave and do not return,” Scott said.
Instead of a company that forbids employee use of social media, Scott encouraged all practitioners to join an organization that embraces the new world of PR and marketing.