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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.

67 comments
ruby on rails
ruby on rails

This is another reason why I think the occasional appointments of ‘social media officers’ is probably misguided.

Craig McBreen
Craig McBreen

Long time lurker, first time poster. Had to jump into this one. I am always impressed by our host, Gini, the range of topics and the most informative responses.

2. Public relations can take the helm, sure, if they have the passion, patience and the willingness, but really, PR should not own it. I agree that everyone in an organization should be a part of a social engagement strategy. I like the hub and spoke analogy. That being said, how do you manage the digital monster? Keeping up with all that social networks have to offer? Not getting stuck on one technology? Keeping up with the pressure to measure all? Social media certainly can't be something that stands on it's own and should be part of a larger marketing program, but man it can become a beast. Making all routine, and keeping the hub and spoke system going is the critical part of all this.

3. PR professionals must change, but so does marketing and creative. All working together creating connections based on actual wants and needs and using what's available to measure the results. But how do we truly engage – persuading businesses to get on board and change, ready and willing to connect? Anyway, we all need to think a bit differently (PR, Marketing, Creative AND Mr. Janitor) and digital gives us the tools to show our value. But working to change that thinking, and getting the old hub and spoke in order, sheesh!

I'll just stop here to become more versed in this arena :) I'm first in line when it comes to learning this stuff, but a bit behind the curve. Time to catch-up, if that's possible! I'll just have to read Spin Sucks every day!

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I'm stopping in to say thanks for the love in your post. Then I'm leaving. I'm impressed and exhausted with the breadth of this topic and admire all the commentors for diving in deeply with you to hash out the discussions we've been having for half a year now on everything PR. Each of the points above stand alone as major discussions about the crux of our profession; it's damaged due to many things the most of which are not being supported in this community.

The question is, "How can the profession's leaders who engage within these peer groups infiltrate the masses and relay our critical thinking and behavior?"

Oy.

bdorman264
bdorman264

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. They can assist in showing what has worked for some but ultimately it depends on internally who has the passion, willingness, and patience.

3. The social economy is here and somebody needs to be able to quantify this to the business owner and the PR pros should be in a position to do this. If and when you can show you are an investment (I will spend $10 to make $50) and not an expense, that is where the rubber meets the road.

How was that; that was pretty agreeable. See, I can play nice...........

Hola ma'am, hope your day is going well.

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

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 calling out users.

As far as being relevant and acting in 'real-time', I couldnt agree with you more on this one. Our PR team tracks social engagement and I love to look at Social Mention especially when we have big announcements. Its no longer about the clip-book, PR is a keep component to driving VC interest, lead generation, demand generation and market penetration. This has to be tracked and social investments and payoffs are no different.

Laura Greeno
Laura Greeno

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 an important piece of the sales process (especially in the early ~interest creation phase)...but just a small part of the process. The point is...you're so right...if more PR pros understood the business side better (even just the bigger picture of marketing/business development)..there would be less "smoke-n-mirrors" sentiment about the PR industry...and PR could easily claim a bigger role in the social marketing and social relationship realm.

jkingsbury
jkingsbury

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 in the traditional sense isn't the answer either. Ultimately all these discrete functions will become more (buzzword) engagement-focused in an effort to communicate more purposefully with people who demand it.

There's plenty of opportunity to lead that transition but the future is not about marketing or PR or any other single discipline owning the social business, in my opinion.

DonovanGroupInc
DonovanGroupInc

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 stay ahead of the curve. Cheers, Andy

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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 you wanted change' mentality' and the 'Everything needs to have a very narrow definition to help my world view so lets label everything'. Lastly - You got peanut butter in my chocolate! No you got chocolate in my peanut butter!' They all drive me crazy.

Vision - Goals - Strategy - Implementation - Measuring - Re-evaluation - start from the beginning. All aspects of the organization have to work together. PR needs to teach employees and departments how to communicate in ways that are professional and help achieve the Vision and Goals especially outward communication. Marketing is the group that helps craft the Brand Story so employees can support that when they communicate and PR uses that as well when doing what they do.

I used to work for a conglomerate that made valves for Aircraft, Oil Refineries, Space Ships etc. Many divisions were poor quality. I remember having a cubicle in a sister division across from the guy who handled Boeing. Every Tuesday was 8 hours of corrective actions because the valves sucked and were breaking and the division felt better not to fix the problem and just deal with a customer service nightmare because Boeing was stuck using this valve (replacing someone approved for flight is really freaking hard even if the device winds up having quality issues). It would of been great to have a PR presence to help guide the relationship and a Marketing presence (I was direct outside sales for a different division) to both not only help the process but prove to upper management what was at stake. And yes Boeing didn't give them a chance on their 787 dreamliner project because of this.

Corianda
Corianda

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 to social media?

SoloBizCoach
SoloBizCoach

@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.

NickWDeane
NickWDeane

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.

jeffespo
jeffespo

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 and be able to think about other things like marketing and making money.

In general social media can be a valuable value add for a PR team or agency, the question is, can they execute ans sell their capabilities to the organization or get the popularity vote to be the corporate equivalent of the prom king, dancing with the sexy thang that is social media?

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

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 bizzes and the idea that this carries through to bigger ones intrigues me greatly. The idea that it's everyone's job is very much in tune with the basic concepts / nature of distributed / social media, but putting it into practice is always the tricky part.

I would love to be a part of a bigger discussion on this topic, but the only places I've seen it done are in a traditional seminar speaker versus audience format. A topic like this is very fluid and inherently democratic (for lack of a better word) and I think needs to be discussed in a more open format. It's funny how open a discussion thread like this is and yet when people get together we often fall back on the old "I am the speaker!" model. :-)

Jane | Problogging Success
Jane | Problogging Success

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!

JohnLeavy
JohnLeavy

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

JayDolan
JayDolan

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.

NancyMyrland
NancyMyrland

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 our potential/customers to make sure the messages made sense. When we launched a new service, I helped train the service and technical professionals that made our services work out in the field. Today, those efforts would translate in to helping them send out the appropriate messages via Social.

While in legal marketing at Baker & Daniels, the Marketing Department included the Public/Community Relations effort, so we definitely would have been the department leading the charge. I believe that whomever is responsible for helping to define and communicate the brand should be the leader of the effort, the coach and senior strategist, that will then help the rest of the organization line up and play the appropriate positions at the right time...again, in a complementary and coordinated fashion to best accomplish the goals that have been established. I think this most often exists in the Marketing Department, but it depends on what kind of skills exist in each organization, what changes need to be made to retool, the willingness to change, what kind of leadership and support is given from the C-suite, and more.

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

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 importance of analytics and measuring the impact of ALL our combined efforts.

It's called "integrated marketing" for a reason. And in order for businesses to maximize return on marketing, pr and creative dollars in today's business world, all of us need to be focused on working together instead of in the silos that have heretofore been the norm.

Team is the new norm. Numbers are the new norm. Measurability is the new norm. Accountability for the success of all our initiatives is the new norm. And the smart folks in our businesses are figuring that out.

(daintily stepping down from soap box).

Thank you. Thankyouverymuch.

Shelly

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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 moderator

@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 moderator

@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 moderator

@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 moderator

@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 moderator

@HowieG 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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Corianda I think the case studies that it's working really well aren't talked about in the major media. I would love for Mashable or Ragan or any other publication to use some of our client's case studies. But our job is not to highlight those efforts, rather to help them build engagement and understand changing technology. We have one client that is integrating really, really well. It's not without flaw, but they're making it work.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@SoloBizCoach @NickWDeane PR can, and should, be measured at some level. When I began my career, our "measurement" was advertising equivalencies and media impressions. Seriously.

Now we have the opportunity to really look at how much traffic, how many leads, and how many conversions we're driving. Sure, things such as awareness and engagement can't be measured, but some of efforts can be.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Oh, man. You said "marketeer." I've had a rolling debate about the pronunciation of marketer; people I poll agree "marketeer" sounds like mouseketeer. Will you kindly explain how you began calling market-er a marketier/teer? @NickWDeane

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@NickWDeane Yes. And there are plenty of ways to measure a PR campaign, as it's integrated with the other disciplines, through simple QR codes or unique URLs or squeeze pages or even blogging.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jeffespo I agree the social leader can be a PR person IF that person understands how everything works in concert, not just communication tactics. For instance, do they understand how radio buys work with search engine marketing with media relations with corporate responsibility with email marketing with SEO? They don't have to be experts in executing all of that, but the leader HAS to understand how they all integrate.

Josepf
Josepf

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@NancyMyrland Exactly, Nancy. It depends on how the business is run, where the departments lie, and who is already using the tools, even if it's personally. I like to tell clients to find the most introverted person on their team and give that person some social media responsibility. It works. Every time. And that person isn't likely in the PR department.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Philipmostert This is great... "Our audience and stakeholders have shifted in their preferred channel consumption patterns, and it’s time for Public relations to understand that shift and embrace the change"

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

bdorman264
bdorman264

@ginidietrich @elizabethsosnow You are going to have to give me a softball pitch; I had to google my answer above just so it would look like I knew what I was talking about. How about the trade the Cubs made w/ the Rays sending Super Sam Fuld to Tampa. I will argue why it was good and you can argue why it was bad...........

Laura Greeno
Laura Greeno

@ginidietrich @Laura Greeno

Oh, sorry to overwhelm! Maybe it is a lot to ask...yet I don't think it's too much to ask for PR pros (let's just say senior-level pros and educators) to know when/how their work fits into/under the marketing umbrella and relates to other marketing efforts. Thanks for the discussion - good stuff. Interestingly enough, this particular pro runs her own small business.

NickWDeane
NickWDeane

@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

jeffespo
jeffespo

@ginidietrich I am not sure they need a full knowledge of all those areas, just who to contact when questions arise. The biggest thing is understanding how the organization works and what the OK types of responses are.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Laura Greeno Yeah...me too. I think that's the BIG difference between those who understand how to measure and what PR really can do and those who do not.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@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)

NickWDeane
NickWDeane

@HowieG @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.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@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 to justify the activity and measuring is really the only way to prove it.

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  1. […] leading edge and contribute to the tipping point on all things PR and marketing. Her blog has been a hot bed of debate about whether PR’s rubber is meeting the road, or whether marketing influence is driving the […]

  2. […] Where Does Social Belong? – I loved this post from my pal Gini Dietrich on where social media belongs within an organization. On top of giving her take, there was a rather intelligent and spirited conversation in the comments that touches all areas of this issue and I suggest anyone in the social space check it out. […]