Ad Guy Gives PR Firm Lesson in Power of PR

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was updated after The Council of Public Relations Firms came to its senses.

The public relations industry, like all marketing, is in the throes of change. But just be sure you’re not from the advertising side of things. In that case, you’re not welcome.

That was the initial message sent by something called The Council of Public Relations Firms, the organizer of the upcoming “Critical Issues Forum.” The Council invited noted advertising executive Edward Boches, currently the chief innovation officer at Mullen, to address the group. But things went haywire when organizers “discovered” Boches is an ad guy. They rescinded his speaking invite, which didn’t sit all that well with Boches. He took to his blog, and just as importantly to Twitter, and in the process gave the PR group a powerful lesson in how PR works these days.

Over 650 tweets of his blog post later, the Council was singing a different tune — or crying Uncle if you will. Boches was back in as a speaker, armed with a fresh topic to discuss at the event to boot.

You’d think the Council of PR Firms would know better than to pick a fight like this with a guy who has 27,000 Twitter followers. His post already has over 550 shares on Twitter. He stated on Twitter getting invited again was not his goal. But the PR backlash against the Council was apparent and it capitulated, bringing him back.

Discrimination of all kinds is now pretty universally frowned upon in decent society. Sure, ad people frequently rank on the lower rungs of most admired professions, but they are humans, after all. They bleed when cut.

More seriously, Boches makes the point that silos are coming down. Advertising, marketing and PR are no longer separate functions.  It was one made loud and clear by Edelman’s David Armano in a response to Boches. Heck, PR agencies are now getting into media buying.

Boches, who is a professor at Boston University too, is taking the tempest in an agency teapot as a teaching moment.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned in an age of conversation, uber-connectivity, user-generated content and the impact of technology it’s that we need to break down the walls and get rid of narrow labels,” he quite sensibly writes in his blog post. “I am pretty confident that users don’t make the distinction. ‘Hmm, I wonder whether this brand post in my feed was created by a PR guy or an ad guy?’ is not something we’ll ever hear anyone say.”