Council of PR Firms ‘Advertising or PR’ Mix-Up Hints at the Industry’s Future

See, even the Council of PR Firms confuses PR and advertising.

This week the Council got a bit of less-than-flattering attention thanks to an error in judgment that somehow managed to be both embarrassing and instructive for the entire PR industry. Edward Boches, a 30-year ad veteran and professor of advertising at Boston University, received an invitation to speak at the Council’s event on the most appropriate possible theme: change, or the PR industry’s need to develop a more diverse talent pool.

And then this happened: after the Council realized that he worked in advertising rather than PR, they “uninvited” him. While Boches didn’t quite pull a “Full Heisenberg”, he did let everyone know how he felt about the matter on both Twitter and his personal blog.

There was a lot of back and forth that we won’t cover in great detail here before the whole sordid saga reached a surprisingly constructive conclusion:

In his post, Boches mentions that he’s worked as copywriter, creative ad director AND corporate PR specialist. His point, really, is that these sorts of territorial divisions between disciplines don’t just lead to barroom arguments about what is and isn’t public relations; they also limit the industry’s ability to grow and more deftly address clients’ changing needs. And no one outside the industry cares.

Everybody talks about how PR has to do more creative work and focus more on content development; that was the whole point of the proposed speech! But Boches saw the Council’s response as a perfect distillation of the industry’s biggest problem: maintaining a “tunnel vision” outlook when everyone in PR, marketing and advertising should be “working together”, “learning each others’ skills” and “understanding how to leverage each others’ strengths.”

Generalizations? Sure. But the URL for Digiday’s post on the story poses the issue as a question: Does the PR world really want change? Well, do we?

The Council quickly realized their error and made the most of it by re-inviting Boches to speak about the very mix-up that had just occurred and how it signified the big “merging of disciplines” issue that dominates so many conversations within our respective industries.

Yes, it’s a bit of a “Kumbaya” moment, but that doesn’t make it any less important: the more we emphasize the divisions between industries and insist that PR only does X while marketing only does Y, the more we limit the development of our own skill sets and the services we offer our clients (who are all the same people anyway).

How will this tension work itself out? We’re not sure, but don’t worry; there will always be better subjects for arguments at bars.