Whether it is the #superinjunction scandal, wikileaks or simply the fact many of our parents are now on Facebook – there is no doubting that social media is having a massive impact on how we communicate. No surprises there. However, whilst the public at large adjusts to their new found freedom to communicate, the commercial world has been wrestling with how to both deal with the change and take advantage of it.
In the agency world, social media isn’t just opening a new revenue stream though – it is forcing a rethink to the core of what we actually do for our clients. The blurred lines between the role of marketing versus PR is creating an interesting battleground for ownership. The outcome of which will likely to see greater mergence between the two, and a change in how and who clients hire to support their communications activities.
Whilst traditionally both marketing and PR have been too reliant on broadcasting messages than creating dialogue in communications, I would still argue that PR agencies are in the stronger position in this new era. PR has been creating content through stories, building long term relationships, working with influencers and dealing with crisis communications ever since the early days of the industry – all critical in social media. This is juxtaposed to traditional marketing, which has been far more reliant on crafting centralised brands, messages and advertising to consumers with little feedback.
This isn’t to say the principles of traditional marketing have no role to play. The focus on audience and behavioural research which is translated into creating impactful and targeted campaigns is still critical. The difference is that the ability to stay in control of a brand message has now disappeared – meaning the role of the marketer is changing too and moving into the previously owned realm of PR in terms of long term audience engagement and interaction.
For some agencies social media will no doubt be viewed as a battleground to win (or lose), for me it is creates an exciting playground within which we can define the role we play in our clients business. For clients, it will impact how they view their agencies and will shift their expectations of what they should be delivering, whilst impacting heavily on how clients internal teams are configured to work across PR and marketing functions. Whichever direction you come at it, agencies have the opportunity to deepen our relationships with clients and audiences, whilst shaping the rules for years to come – which is a very exciting prospect.
I recently delivered a keynote speech on this topic at the University of Hertfordshire eMktg@UH event – the annual conference, which brings together academics, businesses and MBA students. The presentation can be viewed below (and with full speaker notes on slideshare here):