Posted by: Donna Z. Davis, Ph.D. | October 25, 2011

An interesting perspective

I am always curious how people define “strategic communications.”  It’s certainly not a universally adopted concept among professionals or academicians.  It even goes back to the age-old debate that seems to simmer between the public relations, advertising, marketing and promotion fields… each believing that they are at the center of the mix.  As was written earlier this term, “what is old is new… again.”  I had the same reaction as I read the Social Media Examiner blog this morning (see   The term “relationship marketing” still rings in my head as public relations.  Isn’t that what public relations is all about after all?  The big difference is that, as Mari Smith points out, people are now SO willing to share their personal life publicly in a way that makes access and opportunity so much easier for anyone in the communications fields.  So, what’s good, bad and ugly about that?  Your thoughts?


  1. When I think of social media and why people use it, my mind reverts to the same hypothesis, people want to connect with others and build relationships. It’s not a place they want to do business at–although that is where it is heading; it is a place where people want to stay connected with the people in their “circle of friends.” What has transpired is that people are sharing tons of personal information about their interests and dislikes, preferences and activities in order to stay up to date with others in their “circle of friends.” This is all good until it is abused. The abusers are those marketing organizations that do not maintain the “common interest” of the social media user, that is, to engage in a meaningful way and build relationships. I especially agree with Mari Smith in that social media provides the opportunity for marketers to give with no agenda, building what she calls “social equity” and therefore people may consider doing business with you–just maybe not on their social media site. All in all, I belive that this is a good thing and I really enjoyed the reflections that Smith had to offer.

  2. I enjoyed Mari’s post and agree that the opportunities open to us as communicators to engage with the public on a real and genuine level through social media is invaluable to the companies and brands we represent. I frequently use information I find on the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to help me determine what is of interest to our fans/followers and find opportunities to promote the city based on those expressed interests. I have noticed that people are interested in having a personal connection with city and enjoy the personal contact.

    However this willingness to share so much also makes it easier for people to be comfortable throwing out information or opinions that can be rude or inaccurate. Although I have found that because other relationship we have built on these platforms people are willing to engage and sometimes willing to change their point of view publicly.

    Like anything, there is good, bad and ugly. It is up to us to find the opportunity in all of it.

  3. The digital age has brought speed and sophistication to the process of relationship marketing. The clear benefit is how we can build communities around shared interests. An equestrian who loves the cross country event can connect with riders in Scotland and get recommendations for products unique to this small group of enthusiasts. On a grander scale, think of the benefits of a world community around important social issues. The Occupy protests around the globe connecting via social media provide a perfect example.

    The huge concern, of course, is the use of personal data and the loss of privacy that inevitably accompanies relationship marketing online. A detailed profile of your financial status, family, hobbies, and interests is captured and resold. Every comment you make is a piece of information that becomes a monetized asset. Savvy marketers assiduously guard databases to retain a level of trust with their customers, but many platforms of relationship marketing are not owned by the marketer. The business models of Facebook and Google are built on advertising, not user fees.

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