PR Training

Social Media Gives Public Relations a Seat at the Strategy Table

Social media is still relatively new, and as the application of social media is, well, socialized in business, leaders, especially marketing leaders, will begin to question methods, techniques and practices with increasing scrutiny. Public relations professionals need to create solid, quantifiable metrics today in order to evaluate the effectiveness of social media efforts tomorrow.

The public relations industry has long lamented the lack of a seat at the marketing strategy table. The value of public relations was challenging to prove empirically, marketing didn’t understand the value, and the benefits of improving or maintaining a reputation were often only observable in the long run — while marketing was focused on leads for the next quarter.

In traditional business environments — especially in the B2B space — sales owned the customer relationship, and efforts to obtain story ideas, interviews, case studies and other sources of third-party validation were passed through that filter. The challenge was that sales would rather save a favor from a customer — a reference — to help them close a new deal rather than spend that chip on a media interview.

To a large degree social media has changed this paradigm — changed it to the extent that some industry watchers have indicated signs PR is taking over marketing. Experience with earned media has left public relations professionals well positioned to champion social media efforts, in large part because social communities tend to reject the commercialization more closely affiliated with marketing than with public relations. The change is astounding: When a customer becomes a “fan” on Facebook, they are inviting an organization to participate in their lives in a way never before possible.

If the past is prologue, then there’s a lesson for the present: Measure the impact of social media. Social media is still relatively new, and as the application of social media is, well, socialized in business, leaders, especially marketing leaders, will begin to question methods, techniques and practices with increasing scrutiny. Public relations professionals need to create solid, quantifiable metrics today in order to evaluate the effectiveness of social media efforts tomorrow.

I’ll be delivering a presentation on this subject titled “Measuring the Impact of Social Media on Your PR Campaigns” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference, and invite you to join me.

Kye Strance, director of product management, VocusKye Strance, director of product management, Vocus, a provider of on-demand software for public relations management, including media relations, news distribution and news monitoring. Vocus is used by over 3,700 organizations worldwide and is available in five languages. In his 10 years at Vocus, Inc., Kye has held a variety of positions including account executive and a member of the consulting team. Connect with Kye on LinkedIn and on Twitter.


Join Kye for his Conference session, “Measuring the Impact of Social Media on Your PR Campaigns,” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7–10 in San Diego, CA!

6 Comments

  • Kye,
    I agree marketing types don’t often understand how good public relations (media relations) can help them maintain and build a positive brand for their organization. That positive brand then leading to better consumer relationships and ultimately sales.

    It is important to add that a good public relations counselor does have a seat at the strategy table as evidenced by our firm’s leadership typically working with organizational ownership or senior leaders. More than 80% of the time, our relationship is with that owner or senior leader.

    As to social media, we’re starting to see those leaders wondering how to better use social media as social media mature into the business arena.

  • I liked the title, it drew me into the article. Unfortunately, nothing said in the article validates the title. All references were about one set of tactics replacing another set of tactics. Tell me again, how does social media give PR a seat at THE STRATEGY TABLE? Strategy is that which gives guidamce, direction and boundaries to tactics (see “Strategic Planning,” by George Steiner). It is not new and faster tactics.

  • A great discussion point Peter! As a man with a military background would you not agree that tactics can transform the strategies employed – the chariot for Alexander, the tree stump for the Continentals and the machine gun in WWII?

    Social media puts PR people in daily, almost intimate contact with, in the case of business, the customer – the ultimate stakeholder. The interaction between the customers and business on a social medium like Facebook is unlike any other we’ve seen. The insights gained from feedback and conversations on social media gives PR professionals knowledge about the business far beyond anything to which we’ve traditionally had access. This is giving PR pros, what AdAge called a more central role.

  • Frank, I agree, to some degree that tactics can clearly influence, if not transform, strategy. Look at the advent to television and the internet. Still, we misuse the word strategy. An identification and anaysis of mission, goals, messages and key audiences provide the guidance, direction and boundaries within which we choose to use traditional or social and viral media. That identification and analysis provide the umbrella of strategy under which we identify appropriate and effective tactics. My concern is that in this new flush of exciting tactics options, we are leaving behind the strategic approach that makes us most thoughtful, effective and accountable.

  • Ah, yes, Peter, I can see what you are saying. The precision of your definition is thought-provoking: the conversation of strategy versus tactics is one well worth having. What I, as a PR professional, take away from Kye’s post is that PR’s leading role in social media, has provided a different, direct and daily source information that gives PR pros new influence in shaping the identification and analysis of mission and goals. Many thanks for your comments.

  • I agree with your conclusions, Frank. PR pros do have a new influence and, with that, a new, actually continuing, responsibility – to provide strategic counsel to their clients/organizations.

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