Gini Dietrich

Where Does Social Belong?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 14, 2011 | 
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Last week, I was a guest at #bizforum, a Twitter chat where business professionals discuss the pros and cons of trending business-related topics each week.

Led by Sam Fiorella, the chief marketing sensei at Sensei Marketing, there are a few rules: Debate, debate, and, oh, debate (but do it professionally).

I was invited to be a guest because the topic was a challenge to PR agencies, departments, and professionals. Beforehand Sam told me he believes that with the growth of the “social economy,”  PR professionals must step up and take a stronger lead in managing the social relationships for corporations. He believes every department in the organization must have a strategic and tactical plan for social engagement but there is a specific role for PR pros.

Based on yesterday’s Spin Sucks blog post, I thought this was an interesting discussion to continue today.

Following are the questions I was asked, and my answers to each.

There was a lot of really good discussion from Josepf Haslam, Sean McGinnis, Dan Newman, and others. I’ll let them weigh in here because the transcripts only go back three days so I can’t link to their specific answers. But, let’s just say, they don’t agree with me and it made for a really lively debate.

1) Corporate communication is facing a credibility crisis, and PR practitioners are especially vulnerable. Agree/Disagree/Why?

We discussed that corporate communication has always faced a credibility crisis because the perception of the industry is that we’re spin doctors. We’ve discussed, at great length, here and on other blogs such as Jayme Soulati’s, that media relations (or publicity) is one teeny, tiny part of what we do. But so many people (business leaders) relate media relations to our jobs because it’s tangible. Pile on top of that the whisper campaigns the global agencies are pursuing, the lack of accountability and communication in the fall of corporate America, and influencers saying PR is bad, and yes, we have ourselves a credibility crisis.

2) The PR pro/team is most suited to lead the corporation’s social engagement strategy. Agree? Disagree? Why?

The PR team is not necessarily the most suited to lead the social engagement strategy. My favorite answer? It depends. Social should be a part of a larger marketing program, not something that stands on its own or is led by a particular department. While every employee should be a brand ambassador when using the tools, the engagement can come out of PR, marketing, advertising, customer service, HR, sales, or even the executive suite. There should be a hub, where engagement begins, and then is driven out to the spokes, which are the various departments. Maybe that’s a PR pro or maybe it’s the janitor. It just depends on who has the passion, the patience, and the willingness.

3) PR professionals must change their approach to communications to be relevant to the social economy. Agree? Disagree? Why?

Abso-freaking-lutely! For three years now, I’ve been saying PR pros need to think more like marketers. We need to understand how businesses make money. We need to understand the P&L and balance sheet. We need to understand how our efforts drive to the bottom line. We need to be able to demonstrate that we are an investment, not an expense. The nice think about the social economy is it is measurable. So, as soon as we all take the time to get some professional development (cough, Spin Sucks Pro, cough) and learn these skills, the better off we’ll be.

How would you answer the three questions? If you disagree with me, by all means, say so! That’s what makes this fun.

You can join the #bizforum conversation every Wednesday night from 8 PM to 9 PM ET by following the hashtag on Twitter. Or, monitor the hashtag daily for interesting dialogue around the “Question of the Day.”

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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