Who owns social media? (& PR?)

22 06 2009

There seems to be increasing debate about who owns social media. I was recently reading a PR Week article, where car maker Volvo had selected a media buying shop, Mindshare, to handle its entire social media strategy. Clearly, as you would expect, this got tongues wagging in the PR circles. If you read the article, the core reason for Volvo making this decision was based on the inability of the PR agencies that pitched to effectively do SEO. But to bolt on PR too, that will be an interesting development. Mindshare has now hired two PR staff (working backwards from the pitch it would seem).

I think we all agree – that media and marketing agencies have a completely different skills set and they think in a very different way. The reason I believe social media should sit with the PR folks is because we understand relationships, and how to participate in two two way conversations.

I also disagree with the argument that PR agencies cannot effectively influence Google rankings through SEO expertise. We can and we do. But we all have to develop our skills sets in the digital space, so more rounded. Also, it’s important to integrate online or digital PR with offline PR.

Let’s forget about who owns social media. Those in the PR game, get digital savvy and fast. Digital, as a channel, is about managing a client’s reputation, and listening to and having conversations. I agree that social media has put ‘public’ back into public relations.

But don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. All and sundry in Australia are jumping on the digital and social media bandwagon. The reality is that those who shout louder about the work they are doing, or the services they are selling, may be the ones that get the work. In a section of communications that has more novices than experts, if the novices are hiring, chances are the successor could be any variety of agency.

Personally, I believe that social media belongs to PR. But PR has to make its case, otherwise it could miss out. But then it cannot sit there and whinge about it.




3 responses

23 06 2009
Jonathan Nguyen

Spot on.

The media agency’s approach will be to buy placement. Whereas we work with influence.

If simply buying placement is all that is required, print and online advertising wouldn’t be in the current quagmire.

Oh and how were Mindshare going to engage in social media or were they just going to do search engine optimisation?

24 06 2009
Danny Brown

I don’t think social media can be “owned”. There’s too little control over all the conversations happening at any one time. All you can do is control your responses to what’s being said – tone, effect, response rate, correct audience, etc.

Sadly, I’d have to disagree on the “we understand… two-way conversations” comment (and I say this from a PR slant).

Many PR agencies and professionals still don’t know how to run a blogger outreach campaign, or pitch properly (mass blast, still?), or even use Twitter or LinkedIn properly.

I’m glad you mention that PR needs to up its digital game, but this seems to be at a slower rate than needed. This is why so many PR firms are being ousted by companies in preference to those that understand the digital space better.

Of course, whether this leads to just as good PR is questionable, but it’s no good PR moaning about it. Do something about it instead.

3 08 2009

Thanks for the comments Danny – I think your perspectives are probably correct, although I know there are some PR people that do get social media and do now how to advise clients and build programs that utilise these channels. It’s an interesting space and it will be good to see how it evolves. Cheers, Graham

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