Social Media – PR or Marketing?

Social Media has traditionally been the forte of a digital marketer, but lately there is a growing trend of this channel being handled by the PR department instead of marketing. Social Media in essence is a digital communication tool and is one of the most important channels in the arsenal of a digital marketer. It is used for most marketing objectives, from brand awareness to advertising and sales and forms a big part of a consumer’s attribution journey while driving traffic to the website, but it is also a communication tool which is usually handled by PR. So while both have very good reasons how would a company decide what their direction should be?

First let’s have a look on how PR has changed of recent:
Public Relations has always been viewed in two extremes, a lot of ‘media relations’ and socializing with the other extreme of lots of writing of press releases and their distribution. But in the last few years PR has changed quite drastically and has earned its place at the digital table. About a few years ago, as more people turned to online sources and social media as a source for their news (if it’s not on Twitter it didn’t happen), PR professionals realized that a press release just wont cut it any more. Even if there’s huge brand power behind it, in today’s overly cluttered world of content creation traditional media sources were just not effective in distributing news and building relations. So PR has had to adapt and change and like marketing has shifted to digital to stay relevant.┬áSo let’s look at these changes and why as digital marketers we should pay attention to them.

The death of the press release.
No one reads press releases any more. Yes it’s still done because its a corporate statement and needs to be sent to media and published online, but the bottom line is no one reads them. PR has had to change their strategy by changing the way they create and distribute content. Instead of releases they started focusing on stories (sound familiar?) which was then distributed on social media channels by marketing. Content for these stories was usually sourced from consumer & employee experiences and their reviews (UGC). PR started relying more on social media for their content as well as for distribution which meant working closely with marketing. To do this they also had to adapt their overall tone of voice from corporate to social. Tone of voice and language is usually set by Brand marketing which is a big change for PR and to measure the success of PR activities, most have subscribed to a media monitoring service which picks up brand mentions online & offline on media channels. But as more stories are being published on social, traditional media monitoring is only half the story. Any good social media marketer would also have a social media monitoring service set up which can be shared with PR. So you would have two teams trying to come up with original story content to share, relying on similar sources and doubling the expense on monitoring services.

Bloggers & Influencers – the new media
Besides relying on traditional media sources such as magazines and newspapers, PR have turned to sourcing bloggers and social media influencers to also promote the brand. At various media events nearly 25% to even 50% of attendees are prominent bloggers and influencers who are encouraged to actively tweet, instagram and create live content while hastagging and tagging the brand channels. ┬áThis comes at a cost where PR can no longer control the actual content, the style in which it is written and the exact terminology but this is how social media works where content is not scripted but natural. Through this PR usually contribute and support overall digital marketing growth and engagement. This has also resulted in a shift in PR audience from media to actual consumers. Usually PR undergo training on how to talk to media. They also train other employees and colleagues on do’s and don’ts and how to speak to media and answer questions. But as marketers we deal directly with end consumers and we never receive such training, which is unusual as consumers are the final decision makers and therefore anyone dealing with them should be taught how, just as anyone in customer service undergoes a certain level of training as well. Instead many social media channels are handled by junior staff or outsourced to agencies who are not familiar with the brand and overall style which is not ideal to overall brand management.

So in the end between PR & Marketing who should actually manage social media?
The answer is both. PR have the experience, the knowhow and the ability to write and create content. They are trained on how to talk to consumers and media and spend considerable time sourcing and dealing with bloggers and influencers. They should be responsible for content creation and community management, but of course with support from marketing. Based on events, offers and overall end goals, marketing can suggest and recommend content and broad topics which PR can then use and work towards. But it will still be the responsibility of marketing to manage KPI’s, drive traffic and fulfill digital marketing strategy. It would be marketing who would advertise on social media and plan campaigns, suggest which posts would be promoted and the targeting of these.

So in conclusion PR & Marketing would handle different aspects of social media and would have to work together to fulfill overall business objectives.

How does it work in your company?

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