Who Owns Social Media In Corporate Landscape?

In 2009 the Canadian Public Relations Society held its annual conference “On the Edge” in Vancouver. Like the good communicators they are, John Kageorge and his organizing team encouraged members and attendees to blog, tweet, debate and discuss the communications issues of the day. It was a lively exchange and I’m sure made for a better conference.

One of the blog posts really caught my attention. A recent PR grad at the time posed the question “Should marketing report to communications?” In this case the word “communications” was code for Public Relations. Some folks find PR to be a dirty word (okay, phrase) and look to disguise it. I do not. She went on to say:

What I have come to understand is that the job of the communications team is to listen. Marketing’s job is to speak. Proactive versus reactive messages.

It has taken me two years to calm down enough to write about that statement. Just kidding. Sort of.

A complete misunderstanding of marketing

I’m sure my MBA marketing profs would guffaw at the naiveté and complete misunderstanding of what marketing is. However, that’s not my point, nor is it my intent to pick on a youngster – the question was asked in good faith.

My point is there’s a real turf war firing up in 2011 over where social media “belongs” in the corporate landscape, or more precisely, which department “owns” it. People are carving out social media turf and sitting on it protectively without much thought to the greater strategic impact on the organization.

Since the summer of ’09, when I read that post, I have seen numerous articles and heard many conversations along the lines of “PR should own social media” or “it says ‘media’ right in the name, so clearly media relations owns it” or “this is a matter for human resources” or legal or *fill in name of department that wants control here*.

It’s like fighting over who owns the telephone.

Social media is a tool that might be employed successfully by many departments. It needs to be a child of a greater communications plan (which includes marketing, public relations, community relations and heaven knows what else). The communications plan must be a child of the business plan. In other words, good social media serves the goals of the corporation, not one silo or another, and the corporation does not serve social media any more than it does the phone.

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the past two years. I think there’s a collision happening among the disciplines, a communications “mashup” in Internet parlance. Call it “PublicReMarkVertising”. Ask yourself – is a Facebook ad for a job advertising or social media? Yes it is. Is a social media release on an environmental program PR, engagement, or marketing? Yes it is.

An old-media paradigm

The main reason the silos between marketing, advertising and public relations exist in the first place is a factor of old media production. You did PR because you needed journalists to write stuff your intended public would absorb. You booked ads because the audience was captive in mainstream media. You distinguished between marketing and PR because one was strategic with an eye to paid media and the other was strategic with an eye to earned media. But now there’s owned media, and un-owned media.

The Internet is changing the old production-based silos, breaking down the barriers. It isn’t pretty, it is disruptive, and as the disciplines shift, the turf wars heat up. Eventually it all has to blend. Public relations, marketing and advertising have always been about talking to people to get them to think about (your) stuff, they’re just now merging as they must.

I look forward to the day we see Vice Presidents of PublicReMarkVertising blending the best of all three disciplines. On second thought, maybe we should disguise that as VP Communications.

Twitter – The Good, the Bad, and the Ashton Kutcher

I first heard of Twitter a year ago and was baffled by its usefulness. However, the website’s popularity has caused me to reexamine and revisit the site. If you are new to the site, twitter is a site in which users frequently broadcast brief updates, usually of one or two sentences long. When I first visited twitter, I saw little value in the social network, but as an educator it’s my responsibility to understand and utilize new media.

Many micro-bloggers use twitter as a means of broadcasting meaningless events from their life. This form of status updates, popular on Facebook and MSN, are referred to as lifecasting. Ashton Kutcher, a frequent and popular Twitterer, is a quitessential lifecaster. Despite logic, Ashton is on his way to becoming the most popular person on twitter. He’s become so popular that he has recently challenged the national newsnetwork CNN to a twitter popularity contest. CNN represents another form of twittering known as infocasting, where small amounts of information are posted. Despite their usefulness, infocasts can often become hollow or superficial. However, a valuable infocast to follow is education where useful news about education trends and developments are posted.

The brighter side of twitter is called mindcasting. Twitterers that are mindcasting will never share their meal choices or bad date experiences; instead, mindcasters share thoughtful ideas and useful resources. Anyone can tap into the thoughts of some of the world’s most innovative minds, which is a great resource for any professional, especially educators.

Top five mindcasts to follow for media literacy teachers

1) Jay Rosen: “I teach journalism at NYU, write the blog PressThink, direct NewAssignment.Net, and try to grok new media. I don’t do lifecasting but mindcasting on Twitter.”

2) David Parry: “I think about things, and talk about things with students, and get paid for it. (Emerging Media Prof. at UT Dallas.)”
3) Scott McLeod: “An Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University and director of CASTLE.”
4) Alec Couros: “Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina.”
5) Scott Meech: “Technology in Education isn’t the Future, It is the Present!” He is an expert in education and technology.

Blogging No Substitute For Good Content

Awhile back our small, weekly newspaper invited me to write a blog. At first I was flattered. Then I wondered – since my pay would be in free photocopying and faxing – why should I do it? What would I write about? In fact, what qualifies as a blog?

The term blog was coined in 1999. Webster’s describes it as “a diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a web page.” Dictionary.com says to blog is “to write entries in, add material to, or maintain a weblog.” Sounds like posting a personal column online. I could do that, but why should I? Why should any individual, business, or organization climb onto the blog wagon?

Blogger and social media expert Gerard McLean says most businesses should not blog. “If you want your organization to be taken seriously, quit blogging, McLean says. “Or more accurately, quit calling what you do blogging. You are not a blogger, you do not follow people nor do you have followers.”

What businesses can do, McLean says, is engage and interact with people on their web sites. Organizations can provide clients with industry insights, post easy-to-research resources, present comments on services or products, and employ online tools for customer support. Gilberties Herb Gardens’ web site is a good example. The company does not blog, but it maintains a primo online herb guide.

Then, I got my own web site and in my quest to be found by search engines, I read this advice: Blog. The more activity on your web site, the more likely it is to be noticed by search engines. Since you may not be changing your web site content that much, blogging activity is a way to attract search engine spiders and robots. A blog also gives me, as a writer, another opportunity to show my work to potential clients.

Rest assured, I do not suffer from “Delusions of Blogger,” defined by Marketing Profs Daily Fix as: “An unshakable belief that since you can type you can blog. Often leads to hallucinations of publishing and speaking careers.”

Blogs are about voice, personality, opinion, and conversation. If there’s a niche on your organization’s web site for this kind of exchange – and you have a clear idea of what it is you want to accomplish – blog away. If not, save your word power.