Don’t Try to Control the Conversation

John Bell recently explored the
topic, “Who ‘owns’ conversational marketing? PR, Advertising or The People” over at Strumpette – The Naked Journal of the PR Biz.

I also recently covered the subject in my post, “Community, Conversational and Comment Marketing, Will the Real CM Please Stand-up.”

Here’s my take. Nobody owns the conversation (except for the people), and therefore we should not even try to dictate its direction. It is possible to subtly influence it by providing information and discussion points that help people see things in a different light.

But, in this case, it’s easier to ask who shouldn’t contribute in Social Media because the majority people in PR and Advertising are clueless about how to engage without coming across as marketing.

I agree with Bell’s point, “Ultimately, it’s a genuine respect for people and an understanding that they own the conversation that drives new PR. We can shine a spotlight on it, facilitate it, join in, measure it, even. What we cannot do is own it, control it or apply old school thinking from PR or advertising to succeed.”

But instead of saying it is the genuine respect for people “that drives new PR,” it is more accurate to say “should drive new PR.”


Because right now, it’s the lack of respect that’s stealing the spotlight.

It is this respect that is exactly what’s needed in new and traditional PR, advertising, and marketing – with an added element of expertise in the products/companies they represent.

I indeed wish it was the critical driver for PR’s evolution today. Instead, there is a grave misperception that Web 2.0 is the “new PR” and therefore we now have the tools necessary to control the conversation.

That’s absolute rubbish. Web 2.0 is not PR 2.0, and it’s this narrow-minded view that will force these marketers into early retirment.

However, it is because of articles like the one by John Bell and others that will help us change things. The only challenge we all face is how to bring the worst offenders in PR, marketing, and advertising people into this conversation. Most don’t even know how to find articles like this unless we publish them in a book or contribute to industry trades.

  • Chip Griffin

    Marketers and PR pros have never controlled the conversation. Those who believe otherwise are mistaken. Trying to control that which cannot be controlled is a serious mistake.

    I disagree that “the people” own the conversation. Nobody has control. The dialogue goes where it goes.

    All this said, we must not fear trying to influence the conversation. Influence and control are different dynamics, but I do believe many confuse the two when speaking about “new PR.”


Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), Engage! and The End of Business as Usual. His blog,, is ranked as a leading resource for insights into the future of business, new technology and marketing.

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