Yes, Your PR Firm Can Be Your Social Business Advisor

Yes, Your PR Firm Can Be Your Social Business Advisor

Jay Baer wrote a good post last week, Should Your PR Firm Be Your Social Business Advisor and asked some excellent questions about social business, marketing and educational qualifications that make up a good consultancy.

I am not here to refute Jay’s post because it’s a very well written and it’s certainly a question that business must ask themselves. There is also some great discussion in the comments from leaders in the space.

Here is my perspective.

First, if am a company looking to make an acquisition or sell off a particular business unit, I would call McKinsey. If I had a challenge of eliminating “waste” within a certain process of a manufacturing environment, I might call Bain. If I wanted to deploy an ERP technology suite globally that integrates with my current IT infrastructure, I’d surely give Deloitte a call.

And, it’s no surprise that many of these consultancies are now hiring social strategists (i.e Chris Heuer joining Deloitte) or establishing thought leadership in the space (i.e Accenture publishing books and social media studies) in an effort to grow their practices. I don’t blame them at all. The market is rapidly changing.

But if I am an organization struggling with enterprise collaboration, social governance, global expansion of a social media strategy, establishing a consistent metrics framework, or restructuring a marketing organization to better connect with the social customer; I might just use an agency. Why? Because a good agency should know the space extremely well i.e consumer behavior, trends, technology, content, process and workflows.

Truth is, Edelman has been doing this for well over two years now and we just officially announced it last week. Also last week, Weber Shandwick hired Matt Dickman as their EVP, Social Business Innovation. Of course, the good folks over at Dachis and Ants Eye View have built solid practices around social business; and there is also some fantastic through leadership coming from Ogilvy as well, specifically John Bell who explained that they have been providing social business solutions for their clients for a few years now.

Here is how we at Edelman define social business:

Social business planning is the blueprint for the transformation of an organization—bridging the external with internal, resulting in a more connected way of doing business which creates shared value for all stakeholders

I don’t want to get into specifics about definitions so let’s just take a look at a few challenges that we all know exist in the enterprise today.

  1. There is chaos. Some employees, unfortunately, just don’t know how to behave on the Internet. They are tweeting about the brand or its competitors and not disclosing; or, leaving comments on competitors blogs from an internal IP address and again, not disclosing. They are posting questionable content on their personal networks and getting fired for it. And yes, some are posting confidential material online.
  2. There is conflict; an internal land grab for social media ownership. Marketing wants it, PR wants it and business units are just doing it with not much direction. This results in a confusion of roles & responsibilities between internal teams. Morale is low, and team members are purposely not collaborating because they want to protect their jobs, budgets and marketing programs.
  3. There are walls. Teams, employees, business units work in silos; it could be fear, culture, geography or a combination of all three. This unfortunate scenario, which has plagued business for years, blocks creative thinking, innovation, and slows down product development as well as products going to market.
  4. There are crisis. And companies don’t know how to deal with it. They are not listening and cannot take action fast enough. They lack process and workflows; and are not sure who owns what. Organizationally, it’s a mess.
  5. There are smart employees. But many of them aren’t empowered to share their expertise online. And those that are sharing are not necessarily doing it the smart way. The opportunity cost of not having “social media proficiency” within the organization is lack of thought leadership and employees making mistakes online (see number 1 above).
  6. There are metrics. In fact, there are too many metrics. Internally, very few companies are measuring their social media efforts consistently. Marketing is doing it one way, PR another way and customer support (assuming they are measuring) have a completely separate measurement model. And some aren’t measuring it all.
  7. There are social customers, globally. This is forcing business to expand into different countries and regions without proper planning and identifying a content strategy, moderation and social policy; and identifying who internally (or agency) will serve as the community manager. Many companies aren’t thinking about this when expanding into new networks either (i.e. Google+).
  8. There are marketers making technology decisions. Moreover, they are not getting IT involved until it’s time for deployment.  This is not only causing strife between marketing and IT teams; but there are other factors like to consider like applications not being compatible with what is already deployed behind the firewall, higher costs, security concerns, etc.

If what Altimeter reports is correct, organizational goals for 2011 were the following:

  • Creating ROI measurements
  • Internal Education and Training
  • Determining an Organizational Model
  • Getting Buy-in from Stakeholders
  • Developing a Listening/Monitoring Solution
  • Getting Tools and Technologies in Place
  • Resources: Increasing budget/headcount
  • Policies & Procedures

It’s safe to assume that these goals will be consistent going into 2012 … and social business planning, whoever it is that is doing it, is much needed.

But then again, this comes from a guy with just a marketing degree from a school that doesn’t even have a football team (St. Marys). : )

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

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