Porter Novelli Claims To Have Invented Social Media

Porter Novelli Public Relations

Porter Novelli PR firm

Well, if Al Gore invented the Internet, then Porter Novelli surely “pioneered social marketing.” In a recent news release, Porter Novelli claims they are “..the global public relations agency that pioneered social marketing.”

Does Porter Novelli really believe they were the first?

Or are they winking at all of us with a silly smile on their faces? Social marketing for Porter Novelli is enhanced through the agency’s philosophy of claiming to drive sales and uniqueness unlike any other.

The long-held ideals of the company lie in its ability to “harness the power of marketing to improve the health and well-being of consumers.” What Porter Novelli brings to the PR scene is a dynamic understanding of creative wellness.

But when it comes to who is responsible for social media and marketing on the various platforms, it would be difficult to pinpoint any single event. We believe, to some extent, social media marketing was birthed even before Facebook was founded in 2004, though not nearly as in your face about it as we’ve come to accept today.

Unofficially people were in essence marketing themselves for friends on MySpace, YouTube, and other social media sites we hardly remember anymore. Flickr and Facebook started more as friendship sites and took time before becoming the PR and advertising behemoths they’ve become.

Amazon, although a retailer, has a certain social aspect that has influenced the marketing trends as well. Google has also thrown its hat in the ring, along with Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and many more in recent years. Each came along after the initial efforts but have had an impact in changing the process.

So, Porter Novelli, you are an impressive agency. We honor the good work you’ve done over the years. But we don’t actually believe you pioneered social media any more than we believe Al Gore invented the Internet.


  1. Michael Durand says

    The author confuses social marketing with social media.

    While it’s never safe to say that anyone actually “invents” a discipline, Jack Porter and Bill Novelli, founded Porter Novelli in the early 1970s on the premise that one could apply traditional marketing practices to changing health behaviors and other behaviors for the better. That is the simplified definition of social marketing; and very distinct from social media, developed decades later.

    Porter Novelli’s early work for the National Cholesterol Education Program, National High Blood Pressure Education Program and the CDC’s AIDS awareness and prevention efforts set the standard for social marketing. As the former head of PN’s health care practice, I am very proud of the agency’s pioneering work and its heritage.

  2. Blutowski says

    Social marketing is broadly defined as communication designed to change people’s behavior for their own benefit or the benefit of society as a whole–it’s primarily focused health education (around tobacco and alcohol use, safe sex, driver safety). And Porter Novelli was indeed a pioneer–not necessarily the first, but certainly one of the leading firms at a time when social marketing was in its infancy. Porter Novelli was doing this well before 2004.

    Social marketing may use social media–today it almost certainly does–but Porter Novelli was making no claims about being the first to use social media. That’s an entirely different discipline.

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