Can PR keep the ball if ad pros play on its field?

At a recent small event held by a measurement company and attended largely by ad executives, the banter kept falling back onto buzzwords familiar to PRWeek readers: "engagement," "consumer interactions," and "relationships."

At a recent small event held by a measurement company and attended largely by ad executives, the banter kept falling back onto buzzwords familiar to PRWeek readers: "engagement," "consumer interactions," and "relationships."

Hosted by Max Kalehoff, VP of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, and Seth Goldstein, CEO of online financial lead-generation firm Root Markets, the purpose of the event was to discuss new ways for advertisers to reach out to the public now that the traditional ways were, according to the invite, "broken."

If you'd closed your eyes and substituted the names of some disciplines, you'd have assumed you were in a room full of PR pros. The question, "How is this not PR?" was asked but not answered. Maybe there was no answer. The fact that the ad pros were discussing this in public portends to a power grab for that much-discussed gray area of marketing.

Of course, PR has always been about relationships with various groups, from media to grassroots communities. For an industry trying to cement "relationship building" into the minds of clients, this could not be a larger watershed moment: the ad industry is trying to out-PR PR.

This by no means signifies that a windfall of money is guaranteed to come PR's way. Clients seeking results will find them wherever they can, and ad agencies, ever the illusionists, could easily move their services slowly toward the middle. If PR is too busy playing defense, they could find the game being played elsewhere.

If there was one point of consensus at this confab, it was that marketers of all stripes agreed that clients need to bring firms and their own marketers in during product development. Too many PR and ad pros are being asked to pitch, sell, and promote the unmarketable. As to who gets greater resonance in those meetings - ad or PR teams - it depends on who has possession of the ball.

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