PR, Social Media, Transparency & Good News

I’ve been having a very lively discussion on Twitter today about PR, social media and where the lines of transparency fall. We asked if a PR firm should run social media entities in social communities. If they do, should they identify themselves in these communities – like Twitter, Facebook, etc. – as the PR firm or as part of the company’s marketing team, or is simply having a company entity sufficient enough to imply that you’re probably talking to the marketing folks (which could include an agency). How transparent is transparent enough? I received a lot of lively – and differing – answers:

PR Company Transparency

My favorite answer, however, was from @tgruber. She said:

@tgruber Transparency Reply

It’s my favorite answer because for me, if I’m interacting with a company’s brand online, it seems obvious that the marketing team would be behind it unless otherwise noted (as in the case of @zappos which is clearly identified as the CEO, Tony Hsieh; or in our case @PerkettPR – where we identify who is behind the Twittering of the brand right in our bio).

But I’m in marketing and PR – so I wanted other viewpoints. If you are interacting with @Lotame (client), for example, do you assume you are talking to the CEO or a marketing executive, or someone else? If a PR firm maintains the account should they say in their bio, for example, “We’re PerkettPR Twittering on behalf of Client.”? If you follow @TJMaxx, @Starbucks, @JetBlue, @LuckyShops or others, does it matter to you who’s behind the social media curtain – as long as they aren’t claiming to be the CEO when they are not?

We’re excited to announce several new clients today and as we continue planning and launching many social media campaigns for them in the coming months, we continue to value and learn from the collective communities and their opinions. That includes you – so what do you think?

10 thoughts on “PR, Social Media, Transparency & Good News

  1. I liked @tgruber’s answer as well. I ‘follow’ some companies (JetBlue, Amazon, Starbucks, Whole Foods) but I expect those communications to be marketing (or customer service)-related – not ‘personal’.

    On the other hand, if it’s a person I generally expect it to be personAL – regardless of who they work for.

    Many of the questions you ask don’t – IMHO – have any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. There’s a real opportunity to demonstrate leadership by putting yourself and your firm ‘out there’ – even if that means you step on a toe or two while doing so. Gotta break eggs, as they say.

    And congrats on the new clients – the well-deserved (and I’m sure hard-earned) rewards of that leadership!

  2. Chris – good points. I like your attitude about expectations and about getting out there and pushing the envelope. We are still learning, as I think most are – and the acknowledgment of that is greatly appreciated. We’re lucky to work with clients who will trust us not to break too many eggs. :)

    Thank you for reading and for commenting!

  3. I have been fortunate enough to be on both sides of this conversation. So hopefully i can be a bit of help.

    First, I think it is super important to know that a PR Firm should absolutely be apart of the social entities. However i believe that they should stay on the down-low of the project. So you should be apart of the marketing team of the business.

    I think about it this way. You are hired by the company to perform a task for the company.. So while you are doing this you are apart of their company. So anything that goes out, should have their name on it. Thus, stay transparent. This will help networkers as well!

    From the standpoint of the social networker… When they add companies to their twitter or any other social network, they know they are about to see the newest campaigns come through their networks when adding them. And if not, I would be very curious to see what they do expect from a business!!!

    So in the PR plan… you should be creating groups for the company and not using your PR name.

  4. Chris, great post, and thanks for the mention

    …my two cents, I think that the two most important things are being transparent with who is behind the identities and simply participating in the communities, like Twitter. To many companies don’t, and I am personally glad that your team brought this to our attention

  5. On your remark, “if I’m interacting with a company’s brand online, it seems obvious that the marketing team would be behind it unless otherwise noted,” I would rather agree with @mjkeliher’s post that if it’s a team, it should be identified as such:

    For me personally, I am the twitter face/voice of our (albeit small) company. The twitter name is the company’s @MillerMosaicLLC but the picture is of me, the bio says my name and my title.

  6. Christine,

    I think where people’s expectations get out of whack is in the change of venue. If I go to a company’s website and click on chat or enter a discussion forum I know what to expect. I know that any response to my questions or comments will come from a customer service rep appropriate to my interaction.

    I think it spooks people a little when all of a sudden they’re on Twitter and “BAM!” there’s @Starbucks. “Hmm…is it really Starbucks? What are they doing out here? I was just chatting with my friends and stuff and now @Starbucks is here.” So, from that perspective I think businesses need to be transparent about why they are participating and how they will engage.

    On the question of PR firms or agencies Tweeting on behalf of clients I can’t see why it actually matters. It is a matter of “agency” right? As an agent of the firm there is no difference in theory or practice. You represent your clients and you speak on their behalf. That’s why they hired you.

    In the end, the participants on social media platform care less about “who” is doing the tweeting and more about the “whats”, “whys” and “hows”.

  7. I do confirm that one of the great benefits of twitter is to humanize customer service. A majority of companies have lost it. I hate it when I have to fill out a blank form in a “customer service” or “contact us” page.
    Will win those who leverage twitter to take good care of their customers.

  8. Brian, Scott, Yael, Mike and Fred – thank you for the comments. I think Mike makes an interesting point about change of venue. Especially Twitter – the early adopters on Twitter, Seesmic and others seem to be extra passionate about protecting the community – almost to the point of policing it. I know I had a tinge of “oh no” when I saw Twitter become so popular – it definitely changes the community.

    In the end though, it sounds like most people agree that following or connecting with a company entity means you should expect some marketing messages. And, that most of you agree that PR – agency or not – is part of the marketing team. As long as the intent is clear and messages are kept honest, it seems most people are okay with an agency being part of (or behind) the identity.

    And I like Fred’s comment on “humanizing” customer service in these social communities. I think this has been the change we’ve seen for marketing and PR as well. It has felt much more 1-1 and personable over the last year. It will be interesting to see if companies embrace or reject that notion, and how social media marketing evolves as a result.

  9. Wow, I’m honored. It is great to see the dialogue to keep my finger on the pulse of the audience. As a marketing person myself, I encourage people within our company to use twitter, but their use isn’t limited to company-related posts since hey, we are people too. But I see the company Twitter account, which is manned by a team, as a means to communicate company business and industry happenings to those who have expressed an interest in knowing what is going on with our company and what we think of industry news.

  10. Tamara – thank you for participating on the Twitter stream and inspiring me to bring the conversation to the blog. I love learning from you and the rest of the community.

    As a side note, all of our employees have their own personal Twitter accounts (where we mix personal and work – because work is a part of us, after all) and we use the @PerkettPR handle to communicate exactly how you described – company news, client news, market insights, helpful tips, etc. We also tell you who is behind the Twitter account for that personal touch.

    Thanks again!

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