Gini Dietrich

Where Does Social Belong?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 14, 2011 | 
76

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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76 Comments on "Where Does Social Belong?"

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KenMueller
KenMueller
5 years 16 days ago

I think you nailed it on all three questions. I particularly like your answer to number 2. I read so many blogs that say social MUST reside in this place or that. Even businesses with seemingly similar corporate structures allow them to function differently internally. For a business to be truly social across the board there needs to be a fully integrated social strategy that embraces most, if not all, departments. The biggest issue then is internal communication!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@KenMueller Yes, yes, and OH! Yes.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV
5 years 16 days ago

For the record – I don’t agree or disagree so much as admit that this is not my core area of expertise. @seanmcginnis does not agree. I can say that with certainty. Nevertheless, it was a great chat and I really enjoyed seeing you come out and host it! You have my full respect, right or wrong.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@danielnewmanUV @SeanMcGinnis LOL! He doesn’t agree with me just to disagree with me. So I have your full respect, right or wrong? You do think I’m wrong?

Sean McGinnis
5 years 16 days ago
It appears I am dramatically misunderstood. {sigh} LOL In all seriousness, I don’t disagree at all with your answers to the three questions above. They may have been the “official” questions of the #BizForum debate, but there was another question sprinkled in there which is where I did disagree with you…and my disagreement may have been a limitation of the forum we were operating within. The question as I recall it was “should everyone be using social media”. I heard you say yes, that every employee should be using social media, which is when I broke out in hives. 🙂… Read more »
Josepf
5 years 16 days ago
Gin-E, I agree that PR Professionals are facing a credibility crisis. I agree that the lack of accountability and the desire for the next Martini Moment are part of the problem. I also agree it is not a default answer that PR leads the Social Media charge, and that the janitor in many companies may have better social sensibilities. And I abso-freaking-lutely agree that PR professionals need to 1) think like marketers, 2) understand business & how to make bottom-line impacts. AND 3) that everything they do can and should be measured (effectively). Looks like we are in total violent… Read more »
Sean McGinnis
5 years 16 days ago

Ok. Scanning through the old tweets. I also disagreed with you comparing social media to a fax machine. They don’t look alike at all. Strange….

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV
5 years 16 days ago

@Sean McGinnis HILARIOUS

Sean McGinnis
5 years 16 days ago

OK – @danielnewmanUV Asked the question: Social Media should be part of everyone’s jobs? What does Sean think. That’s where we parted ways…. https://twitter.com/#!/danielnewmanUV/status/78623183732879360

Sean McGinnis
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich @KenMueller I’ll have what she’s having….

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV
5 years 16 days ago

@ginidietrich @SeanMcGinnis I actually don’t think you’re wrong. I really have no idea – I’m not an SME in this area.

al.pittampalli
al.pittampalli
5 years 16 days ago

For #2, it definitely depends. It really does come down to passion. Social tends to surface inauthenticity, so whoever is leading the charge needs to be totally congruent with the brand and aligned with the company values. Sometimes that’s a PR person…sometimes that’s an intern. Good point.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer
5 years 16 days ago
The point I care most about is #3, Gini. But I believe it’s more broad than just PR pros thinking like marketers and understanding (and more importantly, caring) how businesses make money. EVERY aspect of marketing/comms/creative/pr needs to do that. The creative talent needs to understand the digital landscape and not just design pretty things, but design pretty things that WORK. The PR team needs to understand the nuances of marketing and how that works in the social sphere and relative to PR and their goals – and integrate that into everything they do. Entire teams need to understand the… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@danielnewmanUV Ha!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago
@Sean McGinnis You didn’t interpret my tweets correctly. I do think social media is how every employee will communicate, internally and externally, with friends, family, customers, prospects, stakeholders, colleagues, competitors, and more. I don’t think every employee is the brand ambassador or that they should be using the tools on behalf of the company. There should be a hub that is where everything flows in. That person (or team) decides who it goes to to be answered. So it will be someone in a variety of departments. Hence, all employees using the tools, but only speaking on behalf of the… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@Josepf Dammit. How did we get to the point that we agree?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago
@al.pittampalli Funny you say that because adamkmiec just tweeted me and said he was disappointed in that response. He said (Adam, hope you don’t mind my quoting you), “Disappointed in the answer it depends. Be bold. You’re better than that. C’mon don’t punt like everyone else out there.” My response? It really does depend. We have one client who absolutely will not let anyone but marketing and PR touch the social efforts (though we’re trying to change that). And another client that runs it all through customer service. And yet another client who has a team – one person from… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@ShellyKramer Totally agree with you, Shelly! I answered it solely from a PR perspective because that’s how the question was asked. But, too often. everyone leaves the finances up to the controller or CFO and they don’t understand even how their own company makes money. If you’re a consultant of any sort and you don’t understand how your own company makes money, you’re going to have a hard time working with clients.

Philipmostert
Philipmostert
5 years 16 days ago

We are facing similar debates here in South Africa. In fact presented this to African deligate a few weeks ago. Times to shake things up! http://philipmostert.posterous.com/online-reputation-managements-impact-on-pr

NancyMyrland
NancyMyrland
5 years 16 days ago
Gini, absolutely…”it depends” is one of my favorite sayings when I’m talking about marketing, communication, how things should be done, etc. For example, when I was at Time Warner, Marketing and Community/Public Relations were two different departments. Marketing most often led the charge, but we worked closely with Public Relations to make sure we were covering our bases, and that, as my last blog post suggested, our efforts were “coordinated and complementary,” the two words I use to describe integrated marketing. I also met with Customer Service to run our promotions and messages by the people who worked directly with… Read more »
JayDolan
JayDolan
5 years 16 days ago

Everyone needs to change their approaches to communications. There are constant updates tot he social networks, and new networks being released almost daily. If you can’t change your approach, you are ruined.

JohnLeavy
JohnLeavy
5 years 16 days ago

“PR people need to think more like marketers”…glad to have you over on the dark side.

janesheeba
janesheeba
5 years 16 days ago

Oh yes, social can never stand on its own. It is part of marketing and making long term business and personal relationships. It is about unearthing opportunities for the business itself – can’t be a stand alone thing!

wabbitoid
5 years 16 days ago
Question 2 seems to be evolving a bit as you keep answering it – perhaps that question is being asked in a lot of different ways. But … it probably should be evolving as it becomes more refined. I think that is a good topic for an hours-long discussion because if it really is everyone’s job it’s a matter of training and development of corporate protocols. When anything comes down to that it’s a matter of making it succinct (ie, not a huge book written by lawyers!) and understandable. I love taking the teaching / coaching approach with very small… Read more »
jeffespo
5 years 16 days ago
Gini – I like this post and identify best with #2. In general, many PR folks fell into social media space. And while it probably pains PR folks to hear this, they are not always the best suited for the job. Full social media integration is a lot like a crew team with everyone pulling together to get to the common goal/good. The leader should be a good communicator who understands the technologies and different types of communications modes needed. This can be a PR person, they just need to get ready to toss out some hard-line beliefs on messaging… Read more »
NickWDeane
5 years 16 days ago

Perhaps as I’m coming from a marketing perspective, but I agree with all you said. Traditional PR suffers because it is difficult to measure and in today’s market there is huge justified pressure for everything to be measurable. Music from a marketeers hymn book.

SoloBizCoach
SoloBizCoach
5 years 16 days ago

@NickWDeane I agree that there is a ton of pressure to measure everything, but I am not sure that it is justified. We have swung way too far in our desire to measure everything. I think this leads to inefficiency and inaction.

SoloBizCoach
SoloBizCoach
5 years 16 days ago

@NickWDeane A little intuition goes a long way.

Corianda
Corianda
5 years 16 days ago
Agree, agree, agree–but what do I know, and I do have a relevant question: #2 up there concerns who is the best suited to run social engagement. There’s a whole lot of talk circling around airlines as an example industry for the use of an integrated, not department-specific, approach to social media (Mashable even posted an infographic entitled The Case Against a Social Media Department: http://mashable.com/2011/06/10/case-against-social-media-department-infographic/). So, is “What company?” or “Which department?” even the best question to be asking? Does anyone here know of any companies or industries (outside of the airlines) having success with an across-the-board integrated approach… Read more »
Sean McGinnis
5 years 16 days ago

@ShellyKramer Yes please! Yes to all of the above. 🙂

NickWDeane
5 years 16 days ago

@SoloBizCoach I agree it does – and creativity shouldn’t be stifled but even so it needs to be accommodated to some degree within measurable objectives

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 16 days ago
HAHAHA! love that last point. I think there is a misperception about Social Media since it really is technology and I have said it should reside in the IT Department and then integrated into every job function in ways to improve internal and external communication (not driven by IT just they integrate it) and someone needs to manage rules similar to how manufacturing uses ISO9001 (which is anyone wants to ISO their company I can help…for reals). We also have three problems. First is the ‘I like the boat not rocked, I don’t want to learn, life was easier before… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 16 days ago
@NickWDeane @SoloBizCoach Yes and no. The problem is the CFO and CEO and COO have to allocate resources to maximize return on investment for shareholders in public companies. If they have a choice of investing $100k to improve how to make a product thus saving $250k per year by buying a new machine or $100k in Marketing and PR which should bring in $1 million in new sales but they can not measure it. PR/Marketing loses every time. Thus the drive to measure. And in the end if something doesn’t bring sales, cost savings, or increased product it is hard… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 16 days ago

@NickWDeane @SoloBizCoach sorry meant increased profit not product

NickWDeane
5 years 16 days ago

@HowieSPM @SoloBizCoach You are absolutely right about the result of such a choice. Whilst Marketing and PR can’t be measured precisely, there still can be measured results. The main challenge is one of persuasion – often senior management, particularly within manufacturing, don’t ‘get’ the value of marketing or PR, measurable or not.

DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc
5 years 16 days ago
I am in agreement here Gini – especially where it relates to question #3 in this era of “convergence”. We all need to think differently in order to maximize the reach and effect of our key messages and those of our clients in particular. I know of a few PR firms up here in the Great White North who are hiring a diverse cross section of professionals from pr, marketing, communications and so on for their digital marketing/communications divisions. It only makes sense – and bucking the old constant of life ie resistance to change is the only way to… Read more »
rachaelseda
5 years 16 days ago
@ginidietrich I agree with it depends for the reasons you stated. Ideally I think it should be a team of people from all departments working with the PR/Marketing team. But you’re right in that, it’s not always possible to do because some companies are wary of doing it this way etc. My question is how do you go about getting everyone to realize that each department should be involved (let alone transferring the knowledge necessary for each department to play an active part). My personal challenge at my organization is that I know that for us, social media would be… Read more »
jkingsbury
jkingsbury
5 years 16 days ago
Respectfully, I completely disagree. PR does not need to think more like marketing. Yes, PR, like every other business function, needs to fundamentally understand the business and how it contributes. But PR, customer service, HR and even sales all have to be good at doing things that are absolutely not marketing-oriented. That’s not disputing that all must drive the bottom line. How each function does that varies though, and marketing is not the North Star. Try “marketing” to a pissed off customer, a top notch recruit or a prospect that needs consultative guidance throughout a long, complex sales cycle. PR… Read more »
Laura Greeno
Laura Greeno
5 years 16 days ago
Thanks Gini. #3 reminds me of a conversation I had with a PR pro several months ago. She commented, “PR is ‘sales’ at its best.” I probably remember it so vividly because of how wrong it sounded to me. With that statement, the PR pro discredited herself from the full business-side of the picture (the marketing-as-a-whole picture ~where marketing helps to reach and sometimes drive business goals…and understanding each specific marketing activity ~as well as where and when each comes into play within the big picture – including the role of sales/business development). I do believe PR activities certainly are… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 16 days ago

@NickWDeane @SoloBizCoach I agree. I wasn’t saying measuring everything is right it is just the way so many drone businesses work. Especially public ones. But as you can very well see public companies with strong visionaries like Apple or Google can make investments in areas that initially might not bring results but in the end hugely impact sales. Private companies this is much easier because long term goals (growth of the company) normally trump short term goals (my corporate bonus and who knows I am here next year)

C_Pappas
C_Pappas
5 years 16 days ago
I believe that PR has a role but I dont think they should ‘own’ it or take the lead. All depends on the size of the organization but this may not work since the smaller ones probably need the most help and are the leastly likely to have PR on payroll. We work jointly with our PR team. I know I cannot watch everything so I appreciate them looking out in some regards to blog posts we should comment and respond to and even their feedback on our tweets and what we can do to improve like using hashtags and… Read more »
bdorman264
bdorman264
5 years 16 days ago
Of course I would never publicly disagree with you……. 1. Corporate communication if facing a credibility crisis – sometimes it seems very hard to discern what is real, what is kind of real and what is total BS. If the PR industry could have a common sense set of guidelines it would be a breath of fresh air. Guess what, that ain’t going to happen so it’s up to the likes of Spin Sucks to set the standard in spite of all obstacles. 2. PR team can help w/ SM but they don’t necessarily have to be the driving force.… Read more »
Josepf
5 years 16 days ago

@JohnLeavy I’d add and act more like CFOs. ((can’t you feel them all shuddering around the Martini Bar?))

megmroberts
megmroberts
5 years 16 days ago

@rachaelseda @ginidietrich Ahh, I keep having flashbacks to a college course I took where my professor kept saying, “Just wait until you find out how siloed corporations are… as a PR professional, you’ll want to kick yourself time and again.”

Honestly, no one will be able to clearly say where social media belongs until companies can better say that communications, PR, marketing, and advertising are integrated together AND with other business units, especially the financial department.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@bdorman264 Why the heck would you never publicly disagree with me?! What’s the fun in that?

1. Yes. Unfortunately you’re right. elizabethsosnow and I were just talking about that. Our industry needs an advocate….and a leader. Guess we’ll step up to the plate.

2. Yes. Yes. And. Yes.

3. For someone who has spent her entire career in an industry that can’t be measured effectively, digital provides a great way to begin to show our worth. It’s astonishing to me that other pros don’t want to take that bull by its horns.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@C_Pappas “PR is a keep component to driving VC interest, lead generation, demand generation and market penetration.”

You are so smart. Thank you for that!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@Laura Greeno I wish you could see me right now. My jaw is on the floor. I wonder if what we’re asking of PR pros is impossible because most will never own a business, run a business, or even run a P&L?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@jkingsbury You don’t even have to disagree respectfully! 🙂

What I meant is not that PR needs to act like marketing, but to measure its results, like a marketer does, to bottom line efforts. PR pros need to learn how to read a financial statement. They need to learn how their company makes money. And they absolutely need to learn how to answer to the CFO on what their efforts are doing for the business.

We are in complete agreement that the future is not about any discipline owning the social business.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@DonovanGroupInc Before 9/11, I joined an ad agency and was charged with building their PR department. It was the age of integration. But then 9/11 happened and everyone went to their respective corners to lick their wounds and protect their budgets. Maybe one day we’ll get it right.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 16 days ago

@HowieSPM ISO who?! 🙂 You’re right – I should add IT when I talk about all the places that social can/should reside.

I love chocolate and peanut butter. #thatisall

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