Consumer First vs. Brand First: The Difference Between Social PR and Social Marketing

by Sharp | March 5, 2015

‘Social marketing and PR shouldn’t compete or be siloed. They must coexist in the same space.’

– Luis Spencer Frietas, Regional Consumer Experience Director, Pernod Ricard


This week the Sharp social team attended social mecca in NYC: Social Media Week 2015, where agencies, brands, and publishers alike converge to talk about nothing but the world of Social Media for a week straight. (As if we’re not talking about it all year long!)

One particularly relevant session we found enlightening was ‘What’s the difference between social marketing and social PR?’ hosted by Social Bakers’ Jan Rezab with panel discussion with Edelman’s Digital Planning Director: Gi-Gi Downs and Pernod Ricard’s Consumer Experience Director: Luis Spencer Freitas.

While both Gi-Gi and Luis spoke of the original differentiators between social PR and Social Marketing when the top social networks landed on the map a few years back, they agreed that today the two converge more than ever, and must work together in order to coexist and achieve brand goals. At the core of it, Social PR tends to put the consumer first, whereas social marketing puts the brand first. The panelists stressed, really neither should be the case. Instead, PR leads and Marketers alike should focus on using social as the intermediary between brand and consumer to effectively communicate with the intended audience.


Gi-Gi summarized the PR challenge well, highlighting that for traditional pitching, the intersection with social becomes increasingly relevant, given its importance to the journalists. Today, she shared, nearly 75% of journalists say they are under pressure to consider how their story will be shared socially, while the same three quarters will be responsible for creating content related to their story to enable social sharing.

Additionally, Jan talked about PR strategists supporting social efforts, for whom customer service and care is a critical focus. Response times must be low and solution oriented responses high. Additionally, community managers can’t forget to use the negative feedback that is sometimes inevitable. Jan preached. ‘One of the most valuable (and underrated metrics) in social media is negative feedback’. It’s what allows us to understand why fans are not engaged or what’s turning them off.

What’s key for PR strategists, Gigi outlined, is a keen understanding not only the media and news cycle but also how that cycle merges with the consumer attention cycle, and that that is really where social marketing and PR meet. Gigi challenges her team to track pickup both in the media, alongside how stories are picking up in social so that they can identify trends, and most successfully seed content for both media and social in the future.

Jan cited the now-famous Oreo 100 Day Twist case study for illustration. The brand has been written up countless times in the media for strong real time social tactics. This is an example of strong Social PR, however, their marketing strategy does not tell the same standout story. By comparison, Oreo’s long-term performance is not as notable vs. competitors. What we can learn is that with more attention to PR and marketing as one (i.e. the Consumer and the Brand) what we can deliver for the brand can ultimately be stronger.


To summarize key takeaways, we’re keeping the following in mind as we continue to craft PR and Social strategy for our clients:

  1. We’re always thinking about what legs the stories we pitch could have socially. When our team can help suggest, provide and contribute to complementary content, we’ll do so to support our media contacts, and the pitch.
  2. As we measure PR & Social analytics monthly, we’ll be paying attention to fan drop off, or feedback dedicated to how to improve. When clear and monitored over time, we may learn about things we’re not doing, that we could be doing, or doing better.
  3. Finally, as our teams continue to work integrated strategies, we’ll plan for media and social pickup together, capitalizing on trends and engagement in both traditional media and social, to help promote content reciprocally across both.

Tell us, what do you find are the differences, or correlations between social marketing & social PR? Did you attend SMW? Share any other insights with us from your attendance!

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