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What do Socrates and content marketing have in common?

Posted: November 17, 2011 - 9:30 PM ET - by Elisabeth

Years ago, I did some consulting work for a public relations agency assigned to launch a new prescription medication. The head of the team proposed a “Socratic dialogue” to the client.

I couldn’t help myself … I laughed and said (unfortunately out loud) that unless Socrates was coming, I thought we could call it a debate. I couldn’t think of a more pretentious description for a few medical researchers discussing the benefits and risks of a new drug. Did we have to exaggerate the importance of the discussion to sell it? We had real science and important findings to discuss.

I recognize the power of a well-defined concept, but public relations is straightforward … and to quote Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

Yes, there’s strategy and creativity and lots of planning, but I believe our clients see value in what we do without jargon and fancy phrases to describe it.

So, I’m just going to come out and say it: I can’t get my head around the concept of “content marketing.” Content helps market your product or service; for example, your newsletter is the means to the end, not the end result … and if you’re a writer, you’re creating “news,” “information” or “entertainment” not simply “content”?

I’m not all that thrilled with “reputation management” either. …and I think “storytelling” diminishes what communications experts do.

That definition we learned way back in PR101, “building relationships between an organization and its publics,” says it just fine. All those other phrases are functions under the umbrella of PR.

I’d love to hear from some of you: How do you define PR? … and what do “content marketing” and some of our other industry’s terms mean to you?

  1. Kudos for calling out that person who proposed a “Socratic dialogue.” Wordiness and corporate jargon are the bane of good marketing communications. Einstein’s quote is dead on. A writing tip: Pretend every word you put on a page costs you a dollar; the useless stuff gets deleted pretty quick.

    Comment by Robin Bernstein — November 18, 2011 @ 6:43 pm

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