Why is There Even a Question about Whether Social Media is a PR Function

In the words of Mr. T, “Quit the jibber jabber.”

For more than 30 years I have listened to one stupid argument after another about who can and should do what in this industry we call marketing.

Only ad agencies should create ads, only PR firms should do publicity, only direct marketing firms should manage direct mail, blah, blah, blah.

Maybe someone should tell Tony Hsieh that Zappos should only sell shoes. Maybe Someone should tell Steve Jobs that Apple should only make computers. Maybe someone should tell McDonalds to stick with burgers and fries and forget the coffee business.

Here is my advice to organizations looking to hire an agency to develop and implement their social marketing strategies – whether you are talking to an ad agency or a digital marketing firm or an SEO firm or a PR firm: Do a little homework, ask a lot of questions and find out what the agency team knows.

I have a 33,000-gallon inground pool at my home, and you could fit into a thimble everything I know about pools. So I look to experts for advice. I talk to pool stores who have service teams, I talk to pool construction companies that have service teams, I talk to dedicated pool service companies, I talk to independent pool guys, and I talk to neighbors who have pools and manage them on their own.

I ask them about opening the pool and about closing the pool, I ask them about shocking the pool, I ask them about treating and maintaining the water, I ask them about the pool pump and filtration system… in the words of Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters, “I got a few thousand questions of my own.”

I would never hire a pool service just because they say they service pools. And I would never not hire a pool service just because they also do other things. I hire the pool service guys who seem to have good experience, good ideas, and a good sense of what I want to accomplish. I also consider chemistry (not water chemistry, people chemistry) and references.

So instead of engaging in conversations about who should “do” or “own” social media marketing, engage in conversations with agencies about what they know and what experience they have and what their thoughts are and how their approach might be unique.

Find a fit and test it.

And if it doesn’t work out, start over again.

And quit the jibber jabber.

P.S. If an agency team tries to dazzle you with acronyms, idioms and jargon, run (don’t walk) to the next agency on your list. If they can not explain it clearly, they either don’t get it or they are more interested in listening to themselves talk than they will ever be in meeting your goals.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.