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“Blurred Lines,” the controversial smash hit that topped U.S. Billboard magazine’s 2013 Songs of the Summer list and achieved No. 1 in more than 100 countries, continues to make headlines, but for the wrong reasons. It’s a case of “be careful what you wish for” as not all publicity is good PR. Sending the wrong message can have devastating consequences for your brand and hard-earned reputation.

The “blurred lines” of communications makes it challenging to decide how to get your message across, and even more difficult to control what is being said and where.

The introduction of social media to the marketing mix has changed the rules. Today, it’s all about communications, not public relations versus marketing. It’s no longer a case of deciding whether to promote your product or service with a press release or magazine article, print or banner advertising, an eBlast, web site, blog, or direct mail. It’s about blending these activities and expanding your presence through a variety of communications channels – i.e. getting your message to your public through their medium of choice, not yours.

Remember life before Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube? Until the explosion of the Internet and more recently the avalanche of social media sites, many companies considered PR and marketing as separate disciplines, each requiring a different set of skills and expertise. With PR being more informational and designed to influence, while marketing being about driving behaviors (sales) and opinions (brand awareness). Today, it’s not one or the other – there are “blurred lines” between traditional PR and marketing because of social media, which straddles both categories.

Companies can’t discount social media any longer – even if they’re selling big-ticket items like jet engines or x-ray machines. Sure, most airline executives aren’t making buying decisions because 140 characters about a GE high-bypass turbofan aircraft engine was retweeted or a photo posted on Facebook, but tomorrow’s buyers are social media savvy and will be influenced by whatever “news” outlet they’re most comfortable with to learn about the latest trends. Will you be there?

Can you afford to wait until today’s college graduates who think email is passé and have never even heard of fax technology become captains of industry to plan your social media strategy?

Don’t just jump on the social media bandwagon. Take time to plan first, then execute. It’s important to develop and implement an integrated communications strategy, think about what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re trying to influence (sell to), and how best to reach them (now and in the future), what you want to say, and what’s the call to action (outcome).

Just some food for thought!

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