December 16, 2009 - Comments Off on Social Media: The aphrodisiac that finally got Digital and PR agencies to fall in love?

Social Media: The aphrodisiac that finally got Digital and PR agencies to fall in love?

Following our recent .. ahem ‘award win’ for best use of social media we’ve been on a whirlwind tour of top 100 UK brands in Britain talking to them about the use of social media for their organisations. During these visits a familiar feeling came over me which will give away my age a little here. So first a little diversion before I get back to the point of the title of this blog.

When I started out in digital we used to have to persuade companies that they should get a website, they’d read the news, heard the hype, everyone was telling them to get one so they were listening.. sort of. After websites it was (and still is to a degree) the importance of SEO, now its social media. Meeting clients we can see that they are responding to the ‘hype’ around social media, some of them can also remember the process I’ve just listed so are resigned to the ‘fact’ that they should probably engage with this, after all the ‘hype’ was right about the website and was right about SEO. It’s a bit more straight forward because most clients have a facebook account whereas they didn’t have a website.. but still I can see the ‘fear’ on their faces and in most cases what can be best described as a grudging acceptance that they are going to have to get their heads around another complex digital concept and technology shift.

.. anyway back to the title..

The other day I was asked a direct question by a UK based car manufacturer, where in their organisation we felt that ‘social media’ should fit “ is it PR or marketing?” it’s a simple enough question right? And the answer is simple enough too but the implications are actually pretty far reaching I think (btw the answer is both, it sits across both) and poses a significant challenge for agencies wishing to offer social media campaign management to their clients.

Social media campaigns are challenging because they touch on so many parts of the Marcomms Mix and influence or rely upon so many different technologies. It occurred to me that both digital and PR agencies are seeking to claim this space as our own.. but look at each other with cynicism about the others ability to offer the best solution.

In a nut shell, those of us in digital look at PR agencies and are dubious about their grasp of the technology, particularly the overlap with SEO, I think we are also cynical about whether PR agencies really get ‘it’. By this I mean that PR historically has been based around pushing messages whereas Social Media is about conversations, we’d argue that we understand the medium in which these conversations happen ‘properly’ and therefore are better placed to advise upon their use. Finally we’d tag on points about measurability etc and consider the argument won.

In retort I get the impression that PR agencies look at the importance of social media to PR and crisis management and are cynical about our ability to produce the ‘right’ messages and rightly I think they’d be highly dubious about our media relations skills when advising a client upon crisis management issues. There are probably other points to add to this so I’ll extend an open invitation to PR’s to get stuck here on the comments.

Over the last 10 years I’ve had many causes to work closely with my clients media & marketing agencies, I’ve received briefs instigated by PR agencies but so far have had little need for the type of regular communication or even partnerships that I have enjoyed and still enjoy with my clients Media/Marketing agencies. BUT I sense this is changing… looking at my followers on twitter and those I follow there are a lot of PR agencies engaging and rightly so.. looking at the social media campaigns we are running and being completely honest I increasingly yearn for a stronger basis in traditional PR and see some real opportunities here for us with our clients. From here it isn’t a huge leap of logic to see why finally I am finding myself thinking about PR agencies and my lack of strong relationships with you.. could it be that social media has finally brought us together?

If you’re a PR/PR agency and you are reading this I’d like to hear your thoughts I can’t help feeling that we could work well together here and that through collaboration offer a really solid service to our clients.. what do you think?