Why PR Thinks They Own Social Media

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David Murdico
David Murdico



pr-social-mediaSocial media has become a digital land run, with public relations, marketing, advertising, creative, digital and dedicated social media agencies, each trying to ankle the other out for the attention and budgets of brands and startups. Each has a dog in the fight, but who really owns the social media space?

Earned awareness, spin, media outreach and crisis management have traditionally been the domain of public relations, so it would seem natural that they might have a claim to the brand story, fan relations and customer service aspects of social media, along with pitching blogs and publications.

But what about digital strategy, analytics and content marketing? Interactive design? What about creative tactics and content production? Campaign integration? What about pitching and promoting agenda-based micro content like videos and contests? Paid ads and influencers? Direct calls-to-action? Shepherding the conversion of soft goals like awareness to hard goals like sales increases?

My digital agency has worked with many PR agencies and brand departments on social media campaigns where they’ve insisted on taking care of the media outreach for the strategies and content we’ve developed like videos, interactive launches and contests. In most cases, the outreach was done at a fly-by level, if at all. The PR teams opted to be involved in the bigger brand or product story and dish out the obligatory press releases, but neglected to identify or pitch new influencers, engage fans or help promote the individual tactics involved via social media.

According to Sandra Fathi’s "6 PR and Social Media Predictions for 2013" on PR Daily, PR wins the social media battle.

PR pros, who have long been responsible for managing the dialogue between an organization and the public, will emerge as trendsetters in the social space by providing valuable communications counsel and achieving results that directly impact clients' bottom lines,” she says.

The roles and functions of social media are expanding into all aspects of digital marketing to include way more than managing dialogue and providing counsel.

If PR really wants to own social media, they’ll have to understand the bigger picture and either invest in the infrastructure or support their partner agencies to provide these 10 things:

1. Strategy

This is where everything starts. Establishing campaign goals, planning and adjusting course based on analytics.

2. Campaign Management and Integration

Leading the overall social media campaign. An often-overlooked element to a well-thought-out social media strategy is integrating the social with broadcast, print, radio and OOH. This requires the type of big picture, four-dimensional thinking that not many specialist agencies can wrap their heads around.

3. Active Community Management

This is where you really get into it. Listening, live interaction across multiple social media platforms, trend tracking, matching real-time experience against analytics and reporting back to the strategy team for adjustments.

4. Content Creative and Production

Developing and producing videos, graphics, memes, photos, games, apps, social media updates, interactive, broadcast and contest integration. Everything from overall strategy down to Facebook and Twitter updates has to be engaging, shareable and integrated to sync with the larger campaign goals. The first thing fans see and buzz about is often the creative. That’s the spark.

5. Paid Ads and Influencers

Paid media buys play a big role in jump-starting social media campaigns, but expectations and bigger picture integration have to be clearly defined or the buy will result in a quick spike with no long-term benefits.

6. Contests and Giveaways

Establishing the audience, developing contest concepts, concept design and integration, calls to action, promotion, prizes, winner selection and notifications, fulfillment, plus writing and coordinating smaller giveaways for Twitter re-tweets and YouTube comments — all promoted by active community engagement.

7. Interactive

Designing social media channel skins, branded YouTube channels, Facebook tabs.

8. Blog and Publication Outreach (Social PR)

Sharing videos, contests, events, product and promotion announcements, identifying and pitching influencers, top level and micro releases.

9. Measurement and Adjustment

Analytics, interpreting metrics, matching them to results and determining course corrections or additions. Basically identifying what’s working and what’s not.

10. Accountability for Sales

Enough with the warm and fuzzy goals. Social media is marketing and marketing is supposed to generate increases in revenue. Lots of factors go into the success or failure of a product or service, but social media should be able to account for its role along the way.

My agency jumped into social media marketing back when the discipline was evolving as a way to promote and share funny videos for brands. We’ve been adding to our roster of services to meet client demand and have grown into a full digital agency since, but I don’t believe our model wholly owns social media either.

PR deserves a seat at the table, but brands and businesses should be making agency decisions based on their specific campaign or promotion needs and holding these against the core strengths of the various types of agencies being considered.

With larger campaigns, there will likely be more than one agency and department involved. So they should also be looking at an agency’s ability to lead and play well with other agencies, which frees up marketing executives’ time and energy to focus on the bigger picture rather than acting as contractors juggling multiple agencies per project.

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