Wednesday, January 23, 2008

There is a ballance between marketing and Public Relations


There is a balance between marketing and hype and public relations, that discipline comprising management of relationships, transparency and communication.

On the one hand there is a part of human nature that makes people want to be noticed in the social order. This is true of companies too. We like and need marketing. On the other, there is a need to share values using communication which is at the core of relationships. Sharing requires transparency to engender trust and confidence among the people in the group - the heart of good PR.

Over the last few weeks we have seen what happens when markets respond to too much marketing and hype without the modifying influence of relationships.

Lets get to the nitty gritty. In the USA and to a less extent the UK (although it led to the actualitie of Northen Rock going bust - what ever one might call the 'rescue plan') the markets believed the President of the USA and the British Chansellor of the Exchequer when they said that these two economies were strong. They believed the political marketing of, well, the politicians.

Within the closed gardens of the financial institutions it is all too easy to believe such hype without digging too deep. That, and a lack of transparency as so many institutions ignore the conversations that surround them, and there is every belief that the West and notably the US and UK will continue to be financially secure.

Just look at the response to the Edelman Trust Barometer which revealed this week that business opinion formers seem to believe that they can trust the marketing hype of businesses when almost anyone who audits the online community conversations can see less than enthusiasm for corporate speak.

What we have seen is the corporate assets based on tangible assets turned into tradeable products and services using Intellectual Properties and process know-how have been hyped. The sub-prime lenders, celebrity brands and extravagant personal and government spending, funded by loans from the savings of ordinary folk and topped up by China and Indian economic surplus is not a receipt for endless success. The interest, if not the principle, has to be paid back.

It is not that we did not know that Gordon had sold gold at the bottom of the market or that he had borrowed endlessly to fund hospitals and city academies. It is that the balancing effects of transparent relationships and communication, the real drivers of added value have been suppressed. In the UK leaks have replaced Parliamentary announcements, Big Tents have silenced critics and EU jobs have extended political sell by dates with labels that look similar to an ad agency designed price sticker.

In the end it required very little by way of transparency, notably in the shakiness of the US sub-prime loans and the exposure of poor banking practice revealed in the collapse of Northern Rock , and the whole edifice collapses. Trust and confidence is lost when the true nature of the relationships is revealed.

Relationships when undone by transparency crack trust and confidence and we are seeing the effect in spades this week.

This is why I believe that the PR industry needs to have a much better understanding of what drives relationships, why they are so powerful and why they can act for an against the interest of clients big and small.

The values that underpin relationships, including those values that surround corporate and government attitudes towards transparency need to be articulated and, in order that people should be drawn towards them, communicated in an honest and trustworthy manner.

Without such governance in PR, we will continue to hurt the most vulnerable and will undermine the nature of our civilisations.

Image: Diseno