If social media most resembles PR; why don’t we own it? Because PR isn’t moving fast enough

I was honored to be asked by Adam Broitman to participate in an article he wrote on social media for the marketing community, IMedia Connection. Adam asks the question, “Social media: Whose job is it anyway?”

Adam compiled a focused panel of varied experts to discuss this question for his piece. Of course, the answers varied and some were even self-promotional, but a few things stood out to me as they relate to the PR industry:

And herein lies the problem – where are the PR agencies? This isn’t the only article talking about social media and who should own it and whether or not PR should be a part of it… but with no definitive examples of campaigns from such agencies. I think there are a few reasons why:

1) Social media is undefined – just read the varied definition in this IMedia article. (hmmm, seems eerily like PR’s PR problem of “what is PR, exactly?”)

2) Brands are unsure – and thus, agency clients are slow to adopt full campaigns but rather, are adopting social media in piece meal. Some brands, like Ford, are undertaking campaigns as major one-off projects with new media companies, not necessarily their PR agencies.

3) PR agencies aren’t moving fast enough when it comes to the adoption of social media. Adam mentions in his article that social media is about immediacy. And he’s right – immediacy not only in the way you participate, but in how fast you jump into this big, brave world. Too many PR agencies have waited and are now figuring out social media at the same time their clients are. That’s not good. We’re supposed to lead, innovate and advise – how can we do that if we aren’t exploring and learning long before our clients?

Here’s an example – a few years ago we (PerkettPR) held our first Twitter training for a client. At the time, they looked at us as though we had three heads. They were (understandably) unsure that this relatively unknown medium would become a major conduit of their customer communications. But they trusted and listened to us and as such, embraced Twitter as a major part of their customer care long before any of their competitors.

Another example – in a recent new business pitch, after seeing some of our video and digital content case studies, the prospect kept asking us “So you produce this all in-house? You don’t outsource? Really – all in-house?” The answer is  yes, yes we do! We do such much more than call the media! PR has changed – we get to be publishers, too! Social media is a part of that change and it’s thrilling! Social media is another way for us to share messages and engage with key audiences: customers, prospects, employees, VCs and more.

And this is why the PR industry needs to not only be a part of social media but make it a part of their own business – and fast! Stop wondering if it’s necessary (it is!), stop analyzing (you must move faster – but still intelligently) and stop wondering whether or not it’s going to kill PR (it isn’t – but it is changing it, as I’ve said before). Innovative agencies knew years ago that this new way of communicating should be embraced, learned, navigated and understood, so that we can help companies and brands as the communications experts that we are. As Shel said, it comes back to “public relations” – what’s so hard about that?