Porter Novelli

We’ve got good news and bad news.

The bad news is that, unfortunately, we didn’t invent social media. What can we say? We’re sorry. We wish we had. Hindsight is 20/20.

The good news, though, is that we never claimed to have invented social media—as the folks over at Adweek purported yesterday in their delightfully snarky, “Did You Know Porter Novelli Created Social Media? (Neither Did We.)”

Neither did we! Which gives us one more thing to love about Adweek—just how much we all have in common. Sometimes we read things a little fast too—especially after a long night of, uh, “networking.”

Here’s the line from the boilerplate of a PN press release that caused all the confusion:

“Porter Novelli is the global public relations agency that pioneered social marketing.”

Not exactly a mic-drop moment—but here is how Adweek interpreted it:

“It was the boilerplate that caught our attention over the weekend. Catching up on stories from the week that was, we read the release more carefully and felt terrible that we were neglecting PR history. Anyone miss that piece of historic relevance there? Edward Bernays is dubbed the “Father of modern public relations.” Ivy Lee created the modern press release. And Porter Novelli established the overly addictive and quite fashionable social marketing.”

Totally understandable. Reading boilerplate copy on the weekend would make us a little cranky too.

But, like snark and wit, social media and social marketing are actually two different things. For the sake of clarity, we can’t take credit for social studies, social sciences, social clubs, social security, social diseases, socialism or ice cream socials, either.

Allow us to, in the words of the late, great 20th century American communications expert Adam Yauch, “Drop science like Galileo dropped the orange.”1 (We know our history too!)

The definition of social marketing is “the application of commercial marketing technologies to…influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences in order to improve their personal welfare and that of their society.” 2

Or, according to the International Social Marketing Association, “Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviors that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.”

In other words, marketing for social good. No, we didn’t invent that, either. But Porter Novelli’s founders, Jack Porter and Bill Novelli, were certainly pioneers in the space.

After working together with the Peace Corps, Jack and Bill (as we affectionately call them) founded Porter Novelli in 1972 with a central vision: that the best practices and techniques of modern advertising could be harnessed to affect positive change.

Upon launching the agency, their first major client was the National Institutes of Health; they created the National Blood Pressure Education Program, which remains in place today, credited with reducing the mortality rates from heart disease and stroke by more than 50 percent.

Since then, Porter Novelli has sought out and partnered with clients and causes that matter. Our work includes the anti-tobacco “Truth” campaign, which helped decrease teen smoking rates by more than 45 percent; the launch of the USDA food pyramid; and extensive work to fight serious diseases including HIV, cancer and lung disease. We have helped people reduce their cholesterol levels, decreased HIV/AIDS infection rates through education about protective behavior and simplified the complexities of good nutrition for families of all shapes and sizes.

We’re incredibly proud of this work and our heritage in social marketing. Some of which utilized social media. And much of which increased social good. So we are happy to do what is most socially graceful and say, no hard feelings, Adweek.

Will you please accept our friend request now?

1 from “The Sounds of Science”, track 6 on Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys, 1989. Written by Diamond, Michael Louis / Yauch, Adam Nathaniel / Horovitz, Adam / King, John Robert / Simpson, Michael S. / Dike, Matt / Lennon, John Winston / Mccartney, Paul James.

2 from “Social Marketing: Its Definition and Domain,” Professor Alan Andreasen (Georgetown University), published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Vol. 13 (I)