Owning a Client’s Social Media

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Professional Insight, Social Media
Tags: , , , ,

If your company or client isn’t participating in social media you’re missing a chance to create a community and build advocates. Unless you’re connected to a mediocre product, or non-profit organization, interacting with your supporters can turn them into brand ambassadors. But who is the best group of people to manage the community you’re trying to cultivate?

From an agency perspective, the best group to do this is a public relations agency. I’ve felt this for a while but Tom Martin’s  Advertising Age article (Why Ad Agencies Should Own Social Media) prompted me to write down my thoughts and add the PR perspective in the article’s comment section.  As someone that has been interested in advertising since high school, I can agree with many of Tom’s points. The ad industry has phenomenal talent, the most experience driving consumers to purchase a product and experience integrating the same message through multiple channels… but this isn’t enough.

One Voice

The social media voice of a client should be limited to a small team of 1-2 people and the overall voice of a company is more than just advertising, it’s a variety of agencies and campaigns. However, PR plays a critical role in shaping the key messages used in proactive media campaigns, company announcements and crisis situations.

I’ve had an opportunity to work on about a dozen crisis situations, varying in scope, and one of the first places clients go to for messaging counsel is their PR agency. Nothing is more critical during a crisis than messaging that accurately responds the conversation occurring on the news and in social media. During the H1N1 outbreak of 20009, colleague monitoring the conversation on Twitter caught wind of an inaccurate Reuters’ article that would have been extremely damaging to the pork industry. By understanding and leading our client’s social media, he was able to have Reuters stop the article before it was published and respond accurately to consumers that had questions about other misleading articles.

One of the agency’s digital leaders was visiting Chicago a few months ago and he best described by PR should play an active role in a client’s social media:

Every client agency wants to manage the brand’s social media… until a crisis happens. Then they’re more than willing to give it up.

Creating a Community and Building Advocates
Most companies rarely have a crisis, which means they have an opportunity to engage consumers in a positive setting and create a community. Creating a community is the most important asset that can be gained from social media and unlike advertising, it is a two way conversation. The public relations industry excels in this area because our success is partially based on the conversations we have with reporters and the relationships that develop.

PR professionals understand that social media strategy needs to be about more than just pushing a product, it should be about creating a place where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and contributing to a conversation that is larger than the brand itself.  Maybe it’s just me but I’m always disappointed to see a brand that never interacts with its followers on Tweeter or never shares content that doesn’t directly mention them or their product. Why wouldn’t a brand share information and articles that would interest their supporters?

Playing Nice in the Sandbox

Tom hits the nail on the head when he comments that social media cannot be in a silo and that it should be integrated into the brands communication programs. I’ve noticed from inter-agency planning that some ideas work as a cool advertising campaign but doesn’t have ability to garner a consumer’s attention beyond controlled media and the marketing section of a newspaper.

In PR we understand the importance of collaboration and sharing different media channels. One of the nicknames that floats around our office when people are in the middle of pitching a client story is  “bulldog.”  And as weird as it sounds, when someone calls a colleague a bulldog it’s compliment because like a bulldog you have to be aggressive, confident and the willing to fight for our client’s story. Sometimes this means “sharing” the spot light with a competitor or several other clients in a trend piece or “round up” article. My colleagues and I know this will always happen and we understand that providing information that adds to an article will make the reporter’s job easier and it will elevate the brands status. Our ability to play with other brands shows that we have the ability to look at the big picture and recognize that content will always be based on input from multiple sources. And similar to the bulldog itself, we know how to tackle a project and achieve success, no matter how much punishment we’re forced to absorb.

So Where Does Advertising Fit In?
Ad agencies should play a role in a client’s social media channels, especially in regards to content creation. We’ve seen amazing and moving pieces come from their creative departments and that talent should not be forgotten. However, PR agencies have the best track record for two-way communication (a.k.a. Talking to other people).

As everyone prepares for 2011 budgets and campaigns, we need to remember that we as agencies aren’t silos and that we all contribute to the success of our clients. A social media should strategy reflect these contributions and understand that the best content won’t always come from one source. Hopeful the new year will bring more inter-agency collaboration because at the end of the day, everyone’s budget grows when our clients grow.



Sandbox Photo: Source

Microphone Photo: Source

  1. tom martin says:


    Interesting points. Still not sure I buy the “PR should own Social because we do stories not ads” because I don’t see a real linkage to how you pitch a story and how you talk to consumers in social channels. But I see the argument so often from PR folks that I’m starting to ask (via comments like this) for anyone in the PR world to enlighten me in a way that is a real case for the POV vs just someone’s opinion.

    Will you be the one?

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