"75% of PR agency owners don't know much about social media"  That's a headline from a recent PR industry survey showing the extent to which social media is impacting some of the traditional ways of doing business.  The survey highlights how 90% of Public Relations owners don't believe social media will replace traditional print and broadcast media, but simultaneously assert that 78% say it's important to offer social media services. 

Pitching a campaign with a social media component tacked on doesn't work.  It isn't culturally sustainable, and can create and expose brand and messaging dissonance with consumers and stakeholders. Tweets say this, practice says that. New media has consequences for organizations who are being caught flat-footed at the speed with which conversations can evolve and communications should be organized - to use a military phrase - to fight today's war, not the last one.

Social and digital media are transformative. 

Many organizations - and the PR agencies serving them - have failed to grasp that the scale has tipped in favor of empowered people with information and social networks in their pockets on their smartphones. This transformative technology makes it easy to connect, share opinions, ask for feedback and only then look at 'official' channels from branded organizations; official channels that PR agencies have in the past cultivated and used.  This is not an attack on public relations, but simply an acknowledgement that new approaches need to be adopted.

Integrating social media isn't a media question, it's a change management issue

Part of thb2ap3_thumbnail_undesign.jpge reason why Public Relations companies are hesitant to acknowledge the shift is because their primary expertise is in pitching traditional campaigns and not in corporate management and how corporate structures are impacted by communications requirements.  Simply put, implementing social and digital media within organizations is not a media issue, it's change management issue. New media require strategic internal changes that set organizations on the path to more effectively compete in a new 24/7, always on world.

In the same way as reconnaissance aircraft in World War One transformed the battlefield by providing photographic intelligence on troop and supply chain movements, technology changes allowing for new media are transforming organizational cultures, and those responsive to change are deriving benefit from adapting early.

Integrating social and other digital media effectively into an organization usually requires restructuring of communication workflows, decision-making, and content output within organizations. When Coherent Marketing works with organizations, we present a campaign plan, but also spell out the implications for the organization to effectively execute the plan.  We've learned new media can't be 'tacked on' to organizational structures but must become part of that organization's DNA.  Too many examples of forlorn Facebook pages with a few posts, sometimes badly handled, or abandoned Twitter accounts illustrate this point.

Control and egos stand in the way of changeb2ap3_thumbnail_Integration-from-wikipedia.jpg

To effectively use social and digital media in a credible, authentic way that furthers branding, organizational reputation, and market and sales goals, requires breaking down the silos and barriers that exist between departments. That is often resisted by organizations because it impacts budgets, staff, reporting chains and internal politics - in short, control and egos. 

Just some of the departments that integration of new media should impact include customer support, sales, marketing, HR, and communications. Very few PR agencies are equipped to deal with the change management needed to transform communications workflows, training, prioritization and best practices within organizations to effectively leverage new media - their skills-sets are in developing campaigns.

To integrate social media into organizational communications goes beyond just creating a branded twitter account - it requires a plan, personnel impacts, chain of command considerations, and a heuristic framework for consistent, rapid decision-making - plus training. We've discovered that it often requires a decision at the top to implement, and buy-in from the VPs. But in a similar fashion to organizations implementing environmental triple bottom lines discovering that sustainability leads to improved efficiencies; so too, organizations transforming communications structures to be responsive in near real time to the conversations and concerns of their stakeholders discover they can build a relationship with a 'tribe' or community rather than have to keep trying to clear the thresholds of trust, credibility, pricing, etc., inherent in old-school selling. 

The market-place has been changed by new media accessible in everyone's pocket on smartphones. Some adaptation, by PR companies and the organizations they serve, is needed for the new empowered consumer of information. 

About coherent marketing

The principals at Coherent Marketing have started up digital newsrooms using shared media and non-linear workflows and this expertise lends itself to new media communications structures.  It has also consulted on communications for multi-party and geographically-separated organizations and implemented integrated marketing campaigns within the private sector, state government and NGOs.  CONTACT US TO DISCUSS YOUR NEEDS.

The survey mentioned at the top of this post is at Stevens Gould Pincus.

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