Thursday, June 03, 2010

PR Wins Social Media ... Only to Likely Lose it in 2011

Last week, USC released it's latest Communications and Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) report on public relations/communications and the future. For the 6th report, they broke it down somewhat and one of the more interesting (well, blogged about and Tweeted) part is about social media. Shel Holtz wrote a great piece on it - check it out here.

The big release is that "PR/Communication, not marketing, is in control of digital/social media" ... which is nice. The subhed, in an interesting twist, also alludes to why I think PR will lose social media to other practices in marketing - if not marketing itself: many practitioners missing the boat, re: evaluation. (Here's the full press release, if you so desire).

Years ago, I wrote that public relations will lose social media to advertising. I wrote because of sex (yay SEO futzing), but it is because advertising knows that sex sells, and sells it better than public relations. It's not that social media is about sex, but it IS sexy to corporations right now, and advertising has the whole "we've been doing your online advertising for so long, and this is an extension of an online presence ... give us $100K to launch a YouTube channel" and companies will jump.

This is still true. Understand this, and realize it: public relations and communications will lose social media. Likely in 2011.

Why do I believe this?
  1. Public Relations and Communications rarely have a seat at the executive table. PR tends to report into marketing, and marketing reports into the CEO. Many companies have CMOs, but not many have CCOs.
  2. Twitter is moving away from two-way communications into a customer service role (for better or worse). Twitter is the start of the SCRM (social customer relationship management) movement, and with the push for SCRM and CRM, that takes social media out of PR's hands. Even the top social media monitoring tools aren't getting that right yet, and don't have a good plug-in for a CRM tool set.
  3. Advertising and marketing sell better than PR. They get the bigger budgets, clients understand them better than PR. Money goes to what's easily understood, and how many people can really explain PR to their parents, let alone to an executive? And, while PR might be the bigger profit center for the large conglomerates, the divisions still report into various advertising functions.
  4. PR doesn't have measurement down in a standardized format for PR itself, let alone social media. Corporations like tools that evaluate and measure, and advertising makes those numbers up better than PR and more believable. It's the earned versus unearned media, the paid versus unpaid. Corporations understand those sticks, and we don't have them.
Now, do I think this is right? Do I think that marketing and advertising should be in charge of social media? Not at all. Look at any case study of an advertising or marketing person doing social media, and you'll notice the one-way, heavy handed marketing speak that doesn't resonate with the public. PR has been doing communications since it began: media relations, community relations, investor relations, analyst relations. We wear these different hats and are able to speak and listen and hear different communities and respond accordingly.

Advertising and marketing, though, see the landscape changing and see where the money is going ... and are faster land grabbers than PR. They get the budget, they'll get social media. It's about money, and PR doesn't do it as well as others.

In all honesty, I hope I'm wrong. I hope that PR holds on, gets measurement and evaluation down, and has a good case of why social media should be in the PR realm. Yes, it's about ownership, as we should own the two-way conversations and the dialogue.

Only time will tell, though. But, at least our ace in the hole is that we have schools and professors embracing social media and teaching it to the next generation of PR practitioners (such as UGA, Auburn, Pepperdine and others).