PR doesn’t own social media; it belongs to every department

The CEO of a marketing firm takes issue with a PR Daily story insisting public relations should handle social media for organizations. She insists everyone owns social. Do you agree with the author?


The argument about who owns social media corporate-wide is ongoing. Usually the debate about “ownership” is between PR and marketing, and it gets tiresome.

I believe that practitioners are often so self-absorbed and so accustomed to operating in silos that they have trouble stepping back and taking the long view.

The reality is that no one department within an organization owns social. Or at least that’s the way I think it should be. Social should permeate the entire organization and be a part of the culture, no matter the size of the business. Social is reality. Your customers are there, your prospects are there, your competitors are there, your employees are there, your future employees are there, your kids are there, your parents are there, your grandmother is there.

I read the PR Daily story on this topic (“6 reasons PR pros should manage social media“) from a well-intentioned PR professional laying out all the reasons that public relations should “own” social. It was further evidence that she, like so many others, isn’t seeing the forest for the trees.

What this PR professional is really demonstrating is her tunnel vision. She’s looking at the equation and how social impacts a business from her standpoint, instead of from the larger standpoint of the business as a whole. It happens all the time. It’s kind of like businesses that focus their messaging on what they want and need instead of what their customers and prospects want and need. And that’s not the route to success. Pretty much ever.

But contrary to what many think, including the author of that piece, social isn’t just about being an experienced storyteller, excellent communicator, relationship builder focused on relevancy, etc. (The last time I checked, marketers were adept at these things, too.) It’s about more, so very much more. It’s about comprehensive social intelligence, not just social media. It’s about the business as a whole understanding how social affects every department within an organization and maximizing that for the benefit of the company.

Think I’m crazy?

Social intelligence enables customer service teams to listen to what customers are saying, solve their problems, and be attuned to their needs in a way that prepares them to spot developing trends that can affect product development and future strategic focus.

Social intelligence enables marketers to develop campaigns based on consumer feedback, monitor performance after launch, and tweak as needed to gain maximum benefit from each and every advertising campaign.

Social enables demand generation teams to focus their efforts more effectively on lead management and scoring.

Social enables content strategy teams to develop content that’s in line with information that customers and prospects want and need, and which might help them make a purchase decision, or 20, along the way.

Researchers and data analysts routinely use social to measure myriad things, including brand awareness, sentiment, trend spotting, potential crisis identification, and more.

Social intelligence and data enables business strategists and operations teams to drive strategy, as well as to watch competitors and monitor their performance and adapt their own strategies accordingly.

Social intelligence enables human resource teams to identify and recruit the very best and brightest talent to their organizations and enables them to keep their employees happy and satisfied.

So really, PR? You think you need to own this stuff? I love you and your discipline, but anyone who is short-sighted enough to think that any one department within an organization, of any size, “owns” social, especially for the reasons articulated in the article that inspired this post, well, you’re just not thinking this through. And the same is true of marketers who think they need to own social.

Social is about so very much more than most people think, and it truly affects every department within an organization. And as mentioned above, that includes research and development, product teams, business and growth strategists, customer service and customer relations, sales teams and marketing departments, human resources teams and, of course, public relations.

While writing this story I stumbled across an eConsultancy piece that quoted my friend Brian Solis, who sums things up succinctly: “The customer doesn’t care who owns social.” And we marketers and PR pros, and everyone else with their fingers in the social pie, would do well to keep that top of mind.

Moving forward let’s try and think about this differently. Instead of any one entity within an organization endeavoring to own social, let’s focus on the integration of social throughout the enterprise, using data gleaned from social in the most beneficial ways, using social to anticipate problems and solve issues that our customers have in as close to real time as possible and, of course, training people throughout the organization to see beyond the basics of social media and understand the full impact of a connected consumer and a connected world on the business in general. To my way of thinking, that’s the route to success. What about you? What do you think?

Shelly Kramer is the CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing. A version of this story first appeared on the V3 blog.

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