My thoughts on the #socialmedia chat

Have you ever been to a great party where you’re just arriving as everyone else is leaving.That’s what it feels like this afternoon with this afternoon’s #socialmedia chat. As I’m too late to participate on Twitter, I thought it might be better to add some slightly longer thoughts to some of the sound bites on Twitter. The recurring theme that I picked up on was the debate about who ‘owns’ social media. If you read a lot of the tweets one of the main problems is that a lot of the people talking don’t actually really understand what either PR or marketing is. They use their personal misunderstanding of the disciplines to come to understandable but ultimately ill-informed conclusions.

Absolutely agree that it should be a team effort, but that still means someone has to lead the team. Public relations or corporate communications are perfectly positioned to do this. It’s a media neutral discipline which uses the channels that work best for reputation management. It’s a two way discipline as much about listening, understanding and responding as it is talking. Social media also needs to include marketing communications, customer service, sales, human resources and legal, as well as to a lesser extent others, but PR is well positioned to lead and co-ordinate.

It is a real threat is that public relations consultancies might lose business to digital agencies. But in reality digital just isn’t geared up to do it, they might win the business because they can do a slick online presentation with lots of metrics and exciting, cool looking things, but they can’t necessarily deliver. They don’t understand corporate communications strategy, so if they are to compete long term they have to recruit PR people that do. Public relations should be looking to own the strategy, some of the tactical delivery can be farmed out to digital agencies who are great at building and measuring.The challenge for public relations is getting our voice heard as other disciplines frequently have much bigger budgets and can therefore do things like diverting a percentage of it to ‘experiment’ with social media. PR budgets are much smaller and therefore a greater percentage needs to be diverted.

Control, that hoary old chestnut. That’s one of the main concerns of marketing people, that they won’t have control. And they are absolutely right to be concerned, because they won’t have control. They just have to change and learn to live with it. For public relations people it’s just not a concern. PR people who ever thought they had control are fools – they didn’t. And nothing has changed in the new world, you can still manage, influence, interact and persuade

No, no, no and no again. Public relations is NOT part of marketing and NEVER should be (YES I’m SHOUTING!) You can and should use lots of public relations tactics as part of a marketing communications campaign, but it’s an entirely separate discipline. We also look after CSR, investor relations, internal communications and public affairs. Marcoms is just one small part of what we do. And that’s perhaps what best illustrates why public relations should lead on co-ordinating social media and planning strategy.

Disagree with this one as well. If you’re a consultant it is your job to provide strategic counsel to your clients. That’s what they pay decent fees for. They aren’t going to pay high hourly rates for tactical implementation of monitoring, blogger outreach, media relations etc. So yes the client decides, but with your help. It’s also your role to help your clients create a social media strategy internally and help them to get all the different departments and disciplines around the table.

Thanks to Todd Defren for sparking the #socialmedia debate.


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
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