The Social Media Land Grab is On

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A big crowd gathered for the May Social Media Club Boston event on integrating social media into traditional campaigns

A big crowd gathered for the May Social Media Club Boston event on integrating social media into traditional campaigns

I had the opportunity to sit on a panel a little while back put on by the Social Media Club Boston on the topic of “Integrating Social Media Across the Big Brand.”  It was a really good discussion with a big crowd, and the host Hill Holiday did a terrific job of putting on a first class event.

But the topic and location – a major ad firm – underscored something that’s brewing in social media right now. There’s a huge land grab taking place between advertising and PR for the “heart and mind” of social media in business.  PR Week took a look at this topic earlier this week.  We are in the midst of the most exciting communications evolution of our time, and the owner hasn’t been defined as of yet.

One of the questions that was thrown at me at the event was whether companies should turn to “integrated marketing firms or social media specialists” for counsel on social media.  I found the question interesting because it left out PR entirely.  But in fairness, if Text 100 had been hosting the event instead of Hill Holiday and I had asked a similar question, I’d bet I would have left out advertising entirely.

It’s one of the things that is fascinating about social media – everyone thinks they should have a role.  Advertising sees a highly visual medium and a chance to finally be able to interact directly with the audiences they’re trying to reach.  PR sees a medium based on creating dialogue with key contituencies directly to individuals or indirectly through blogs and other platforms.  The same battle is taking place inside enterprises.  Who has the last word on social media?  PR? Marketing? Advertising? Customer service? Legal (yikes)?

To me, the “right” answer is that everyone has a role and social media will be more effective with all elements of the enterprise playing together in a seamless way.   But in terms of thinking about who should provide counsel and guidence on social media, the key consideration to me is the question of authentic dialogue.  It’s what PR fosters every day.

Hill Holiday showed a teriffic integrated campaign the other night that they’ve done for Chili’s.  You’ve probably seen the ads for PJ Bland’s – the mock restaurant with the cardboard food.  The campaign is really well done and the integration is great.  They’ve even got a Twitter feed for the CEO of PJ Bland, which is hysterical. A great campaign?  Yes. Real dialogue?  No.  PJ Bland is a character – the kind of character that the advertising industry is great at developing.

What PR is great at is creating actual dialogue between your company and the audiences you’re trying to reach – remember, the ‘P’ stands for public.  There’s a role for everyone in social media and it should be in the toolkit of just about any business leader, whether in marketing, sales, customer service or HR.   But the nature of social media involves two-way dialogue over very public channels.  That to me puts it squarely in PR’s domain.

Who ‘owns’ social media at your organization?  If its not anyone yet, who do you think should?  Let me know your thoughts on the land grab between PR and advertising in social media campaigns.