Here’s a PR joke: What’s worse than calling a journalist to check they received a press release? Calling a journalist and offering a marketing director as a spokesperson.
For some reason, the idea that a spokesperson has under their remit, control over messaging and how it’s delivered elicits a Pavlovian response from journalists, almost always in the negative. Marketing is a dirty word – unless we’re talking about the marketing press, obviously.
But should this PR axiom remain unchallenged? Is it time to re-appreciate the value that a marketing spokesperson can bring to the table? In a world that’s turned from spin and hyperbole to influence and trust, are the marketing managers and directors the new gatekeepers to not only company insight and vision but also wider industry expertise and experience?
I’d argue yes. It’s the marketing teams – and their subdivisions of PR, corporate comms etc. – that have been tasked with finding new ways to get messages across in an age where traditional communications channels are shrinking and new channels are coming on stream on almost a daily basis. To be successful in this environment, the marketing leads have to have not only a thorough understanding of growth strategies, product roadmaps and overall business plans but crucially how these elements fit into the bigger industry picture, how they size up against the competition, challenges to adoption and opportunities for success.
CEOs apart, marketing leads perhaps more than any other role in an company, are the gatekeepers to the bigger picture and we should be listening to them a lot more.
Take Twitter as an example. The most erudite and insightful Tweets I receive are, by and large, from people with a marketing remit. Yes, I’m biased because I work in the industry, but I follow CEOs, product managers, sales directors and yet the more informative and engagement posts come from marketeers.
You can argue that it’s part of their job. True, but if that’s the case the preclusion from being media spokespeople makes no sense. Perhaps they’ve got too much time on their hands? Maybe, but if my CMO was growing a network of business contacts using Twitter (or blogging or Linked.In or anything else for that matter) then I’d give full license to procrastinate providing I saw the benefits reflected in sales or changes in behaviour among my target customer base.
I don’t actually know the real reason why snobbery exists around using marketing professionals as spokespeople, but exist it does and I say it’s time for a change.
Hopefully, we’ll see something of a shift when we release the findings of our own Twitter Tech Influencer survey http://thenakedpheasant.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/the-importance-of-being-influential/at the end of Jan. We’re on a mission to find the top technology influencers telling their stories in 140 characters or less and I’ll lay a shade of odds that marketing and PR people are high up in the list, perhaps even displacing some journalists and CEOs/CTOs. You can suggest Tweeters for inclusion by mailing their Twitter name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine that eh? PRs being more influential than the media they’re supposed to serve! I can see the heated blog posts already.
But seriously, in an age where influencer can be exerted from anyhere, and trust built between people with no previous connections or even commonalities, the notion that insight and opinion can only come from certain tranches of a company or organisation is frankly laughable.
A little like MC Hammer’s trousers.