THINKPIECE: In the advertising vs. PR web-counsel debate, an expert offers key strategies for PR pros

The ongoing dispute between advertising and PR over who may be best suited to provide web counsel reminds me of how my sons always fight over a new toy. Their arguments usually stem from personal appeals (’I had it first;’ ’It’s mine, not his’) although my oldest son, Matthew, has craftily suggested that Tom can’t play with some toys because they may not be age-appropriate.

The ongoing dispute between advertising and PR over who may be best suited to provide web counsel reminds me of how my sons always fight over a new toy. Their arguments usually stem from personal appeals (’I had it first;’ ’It’s mine, not his’) although my oldest son, Matthew, has craftily suggested that Tom can’t play with some toys because they may not be age-appropriate.

The ongoing dispute between advertising and PR over who may be best

suited to provide web counsel reminds me of how my sons always fight

over a new toy. Their arguments usually stem from personal appeals (’I

had it first;’ ’It’s mine, not his’) although my oldest son, Matthew,

has craftily suggested that Tom can’t play with some toys because they

may not be age-appropriate.



In truth, neither PR nor advertising can claim a ’divine’ right to the

mantle unless they adjust their own skills to respond to a marketing

environment transformed by the Web. Here are three ways that PR can meet

this challenge:



1. Stay technically smart: the PR profession requires people who know

how to write; interactive counseling requires people who understand

technology.



The Internet’s transitory nature makes expertise perishable, and an

agency will fall behind without dedicated creative resources. So a

technically savvy staff will push marketers toward the latest online

concepts. External partnerships, with a commitment to sharing knowledge,

can be forged when a PR agency lacks the finances to underwrite an

in-house web shop.



2. Beware of buzzwords: initially, the Internet’s immaturity meant that

visitor patterns had not yet been established. If these behaviors could

be identified in easy-to-understand terms, marketers could literally add

value to certain web properties by their ability to conform to the

’concept du jour.’ Unfortunately, buzzwords such as ’portals’ can only

cover so many sites before they become meaningless. Buzzwords can

distract clients as they try to define their needs and marketing

objectives.



3. Package credible information: the birth of modern PR stems from the

introduction of mass distribution ’crusader’ magazines almost 100 years

ago. These publications allowed ’publicists’ to tell their stories

directly to their target audiences. At century’s end, the Internet

affords us the same opportunity. Moreover, the American public has

demonstrated a willingness to accept information from unconventional

sources if they find it useful and credible. The Internet may be an

excellent channel for e-commerce, but its true commodity is

information.



My sons grudgingly admit they can have more fun by sharing the same

toy.



Our own lesson would be to embrace relevant attributes from all the

marketing disciplines and incorporate technology as a tool to accomplish

our objectives.



As we debate how PR will shape web development, we may soon find that

the Internet will instead mold us.



Mike Sockol is the director of Brodeur Interactive, the interactive

division of Brodeur Worldwide.



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