Getting intimate with social media and PR

Patrick Smith from Joshua PR explains the difference between social media and PR, and why to use them effectively you need to look to the rules of attraction.

Most people fit into one of two camps when asked to define how social media and PR fit together. They either treat them as completely separate entities and would never consider them working together - using different agencies or internal teams to manage the activities and creating discreet and different content.

Or they treat them as the same thing and merge them together completely - eliminating any distinctions between them measuring all activities and results collectively.

My view is that for most companies the right approach is somewhere between these two views.


There’s a famous series of marketing cartoons that describes the different aspects of marketing as if they are men at a party trying to attract a woman. In these cartoons advertising is depicted as telling the woman, “I am great in bed, you should sleep with me.” Whereas PR gets the woman’s friend to tell her, “Actually he is great in bed.”

These provide an amusing but accurate reflection of how these marketing disciplines work, so where does social media fit in this context? I've not actually seen an update for these cartoons to include social media, but I believe that social media would be the text message you send after the first date.


Tools such as advertising and PR are great for you to talk to an audience that you have selected and targeted, but that doesn't really know you yet - like the woman at the party. You would use these elements of the marketing mix to try to attract your audience. Social media, by its very nature, presumes that at least on some level the attraction is already there. 

For you to be able to talk to your audience using social media they must have chosen to follow you and therefore be, at least partially, attracted to you. 

When you use PR as a tool, the choice your audience has made is to buy the newspaper or visit the online news site - you don’t yet have the permission to be intimate. With social media you do have that permission. Your audience knows you, has chosen to follow you and wants to receive your content. 

One of the key things you can do with different levels of intimacy is adopt a different tone of voice - think about how you speak differently in a business meeting versus a night out with friends. Your brand can and should also speak differently. Social media offers the chance for more humour, more slang, more ‘fun’ that is best avoided with PR. Although you always need to ensure that the tone and level of intimacy is still appropriate. 

Working together

For all the different levels of intimacy however, media consumption isn't binary. More often than not you will be talking to the same people with your media coverage as you do with your Facebook posts or tweets. For that reason your content and messaging should complement each other, working hand in hand but telling different parts of the same story, with different levels of intimacy.

For example, a news announcement about a new product may have already started through your social channels by inviting select people to be beta testers, or may be extended socially by offering the new product as a prize.

It’s not always easy to do and may involve some reorganisation of your marketing teams, but social and PR can and should work together - helping you to attract your audience and then stay in touch after the first date.

Patrick Smith is the founder of Joshua PR, providing skilled and dedicated PR.

He also presents on the business lessons that can be learnt from open water swimming.