Friday, October 10, 2008

A case of do what I say, not as I do? The Position of Social Media and PR Firms

So the Social Media is real buzzword at the moment. Many people are advocating its use as the future of marketing (myself included), but are the people that really push the benefits of social media truly aware of what it is that they are selling? I myself have been plugging the benefits of blogging for almost a year now, but it was not until two weeks ago that I actually sat down and thought it appropriate to practice what I preach. According to the attached article, i'm not alone.

Numerous PR firms are raving of the possibilities afforded by blogging, Search Engine Optimisation and social networking, yet according to Andrew Smith, the author of the attached blog, many firms fail to recognise these principles within their own organisations. Unless PR firms can be specifically identified as professional social media purveyors, it is unlikely that potential clients will approach them; or as the article suggests, even be aware of their existence. It would appear to me that the best way to demonstrate one's marketing abilities would be to incorporate every relevant lessons into my business practices. In doing so, the client has tangible evidence of the organisation's expertise; a particular asset given the current economic climate and the resultant reluctance to outsource.

As has been discussed in recent posts, the importance of influence online has become instrumental for success in the current economic climate. Influence is only possible through visibility. Although said visibility need not necessarily be achieved digitally, the reach of electronic word of mouth easily exceeds the abilities of individuals to convey their thoughts in the physical words. The level of visibility achievable through the social media is one of the core benefits thereof. Clearly, by acknowledging the social media as a means of increasing visibility, PR firms are not only influencing potential client decisions, but simultaneously demonstrating an ability to implement the new media to the organisation's advantage. This is an advantage which clients will want to replicate.

As talks of influence tracking software becomes more common place, PR firms must realise that unless they too employ the social media into their businesses, their visibility and hence their influence will decrease. They will lose ground to those who they advise, particularly as their clients create their own networks and become experts in their own rights. Although PR firms clearly have a lot of insight to offer, standing apart from the social media will cause them to be left behind.
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  1. Chris - appreciate the comments. As I said in the post, we are by no means perfect ourselves. But I do think the PR sector as a whole does need to properly invest in genuinely understanding a digital approach - and actually applying it in practice. We're already seeing search marketing agencies take a much bigger share of FMCG marketing budgets. And B-to-B and tech markets surely won't be far behind.

    Andrew Smith

  2. Andrew, I found the article interesting. It reminded me of a story one of my friends told me recently. He was recently recruiting for a position within his team. Every one of the candidates dropped the term 'Web 2.0' during the interview. After a while, my friend asked one of the candidates what Web 2.0 was; the man didn't have a clue.

    Web 2.0 and the social media are real buzzwords at the moment. As I mentioned earlier, everyone seems to be throwing the phrase around without truly realising what it is that they are condoning.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I used to work at PR agencies including Porter/Novelli and Burson-Marsteller. I was just online checking out their blogs and was really surprised. Porter Novelli doesn't have any ongoing blogs (although they did a really cool project run by a half-dozen young staffers) and Burson has at least 8 different blogs but they really were just individual journals -- no real effort for two-way communication, no comments, hardly any links to others. Harold Burson, the founder, shared some really interesting insights, but again, it's not what I consider Web 2.0. On the other hand, these are real smart people and others could benefit from their thoughts.

    After reviewing their blogs, I was real interested to see your comments and I agree, they need to practice what they preach.

  4. Thanks for the post, BA. I think the problem at the moment stems from an overreliance upon the term Web 2.0. Many people realise the value of the term, yet don't fully understand it. Social media is actively pushed upon client organisations by ambitious marketers who perhaps lack practical experience of these applications themselves. Although much can be learned from books and academic material, in my experience, actually creating a presence within the social media is the only way to understand in fully.

    A problem with this strategy concerns inappropriate marketing advice. It appears to me that blogging and the other social platforms are being almost imposed upon the client organisation. If forced upon the workforce, the social media will fail to represent a transparent conversation with the customer. Under such circumstances, the new media will offer little marketing value to the organisation.