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Do you really want PR to own social media for your company?

icon-social-media-blue.jpgInteresting post by Jason Falls on his Social Media Explorer blog: Social Media Is The Responsibility Of Public Relations.

Oh, really?

SageCircle believes that PR and AR – and other outbound communications functions – have different goals and techniques and each needs to address their tactics to their unique audiences.  This means that AR needs to voice its opinion and support its own needs regarding company policies.

While there is plenty to debate on this issue (e.g., Where does Social Media live in the organization?), the purpose of this post is to encourage analyst relations (AR) teams be active participants in internal discussions about the role of social media in their companies.

SageCircle Technique

  • Educate yourself about social media
  • Determine what role social media will play in AR activities in the near and mid-terms (and incorporate this into your formal AR plan)
  • Identify who in your company are actively trying to set policy concerning social media
  • Push to join the steering committee, “tiger team” or whatever it is called

Bottom Line: It is important for AR to get involved because the policies set by whoever has organizational control of social media could significantly inhibit social media’s value to AR. Other organizations such as PR or whoever would not do this out of malice, but simply because they do not know how analysts, and by extension AR, work. Being an active participant means having the opportunities to educate colleagues so that policies are not put in place that hinder AR’s ability to do its job.

Question: AR – Are there active projects in your company to define the role of social media and the policies governing its use?



6 Responses

  1. Great post and pointers here for the AR set. Your advice is sound and, ironically, parallels the intent on mine a bit. My point wasn’t about PR having control or silo-ing social media into the PR function, but to say that as the chief communications arm of most organizations (AR falls into PR in many companies and agencies) then they should claim responsibility for social media from a strategic, education and training perspective.

    Marcel Lebrun from Radian6 actually came up with a good analogy — Social media is a communications mechanism, just like the telephone system in your company. PR doesn’t horde all the phones and not let anyone ever use them without approval, but would be responsible for training someone on communicating via the phone system (certainly not relevant in many instances since phone manners, etc., are rather ubiquitous) but the point is the same. To speak on behalf of the company, PR is likely going to train you or at least provide some pointers/parameters.

    Social media should work the same way, in my opinion. Certainly AR needs to be at the table, advocating for their own specific uses and catering their outreach to their audiences, but social media as a strategy and communications channel, in my opinion, should be led by the chief communications folks in the organization.

    Again, great perspectives and additional thought to the discussion. AR is certainly an important component of the communications, and thus, social media, mix. Well done.

  2. No one should “own” social media in a company. It’s like asking who owns “thinking” or “communication”! Social media are what the name says – media – to be used by any and all parts of a company where it has some benefit to offer. As an analyst, I see social media as a potentially very powerful set of tools for AR organizations – though I think the business world is, broadly, still in the process of sorting out what uses are productive, and what are time-wasters. Understanding that distinction is where some market edges will emerge, no doubt.

  3. We definitely have efforts underway to map out our social media strategy. I think it’s important that PR, AR and brand management all work together. AR cannot be forgotten in this equation – the last thing I want is for PR to dictate how I can use social media to communicate with the analysts. AR’s relationship with the analysts are much more social than compared to PR with the media.

  4. Saying Social Media should be owned by PR, is like saying Email should be owned by Sales, or the Internet owned by Marketing (ie daft).

    ‘Social media’ mostly offer a channel to engage with an audience – whether used to simply communicate, or to more continously interact. Good communication is first and foremost about knowing the audience, secondly about the channels, tools and techniques used to engage with them.

  5. When you say someone “owns” something in a company, I generally take it to mean that they are responsible for understanding the risks and opportunities involved, establishing standards, monitoring the organization’s needs, and the needs of those outside the org., to make sure no one is exposing the org. to undue risk, etc.

    Typically, that would involve working out some standards (involving any group inside the org. that has a stake in it), and doing some education/facilitation to make sure people have the tools they need to put it to use.

    This sort of groundwork is in place to help Newbies from making stupid mistakes, not to hog-tie power users who are already using social media effectively in their roles.

  6. Hi Everybody, thanks for the comments.

    Frank and Steve, I completely agree that nobody should “own” social media, that it is just another communications tool like email and the phone. However, the practical matter is that many companies are creating social media policies and procedures. I know because I was on the corporate blogging steering committee at my former employer. As a consequence, it is important for AR to be involved.

    Eric, I agree with your description of the approach companies should be taking when trying to getting their arms around a new form of communications. Make the policies practical, help newbies and don’t suffocate the new tools.

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