With all of the rush to continue to justify our budgets, it’s my contention that most social practitioners and brands are forgetting the value of public relations in the entire social media equation. In the rush to prove ROI or revenue-producing social, I believe many CMOs and other executives are not see that PR is not getting its due in the social hierarchy.
I must give full disclosure: my social pedigree began in public relations and I continue to use those skills on a daily basis. The production of good content and the ability to get it placed outside of enterprise-owned content channels is a big part of what we do. Public relations, as we knew it 15 years ago, has radically changed and social media has helped bring that about. Marketing has taken social and the conversation – primarily due to the large amounts of money thrown at social – and focused mostly on ROI. That’s not always a bad thing but it sometimes can undercut the value of non-ROI based objectives. Smart social communications pros also measure the impact of the non-ROI based activity but I do believe many C-level executives and marketing leaders are undervaluing its contribution to top of funnel communications.
This, of course, goes back to the argument that’s as old as social itself – where does social media/social business belong inside and organization?
The answer: everywhere; including PR.
In the great Harvard Business Review blog post by Mark Bonchek and Cara France entitled “People are the new Channel,” the authors so correctly identify that no longer do we communicate through discrete pipes – i.e. traditional channels like TV, radio, and newspapers. Instead, the new way to reach people is via other people. It’s word of mouth marketing at scale and on steroids. That changes the game for PR and social combined. Social becomes the channel for PR, marketing and customer service.
Don’t get me wrong, for PR pros the media and traditional means of reaching large numbers of people still matter but the game is forever altered with the connectedness of people. Many PR pros are still way behind in understanding and implementing this into their skill set and strategic mindset. They can’t do it much longer or will face a career change.
And even more important is the mindset of corporate executives. While social budgets in marketing are almost always the first to get cut in rough times, PR and corporate communications departments go through the same pain. If social is to work in PR, marketing, and customer service, only executives with the intestinal fortitude to fund it over time will reap its benefits.
The importance of using social channels for PR mustn’t get lost in the rush to prove our ROI.