Marketing and PR have always been restless bedfellows. However, I never thought a permanent removal from the bed would be attempted by one of the partners. But after reading an extraordinary story in PR Week recently I am having serious doubts.
The story reported that, “Marketing directors do not rate the role of PR in managing social media with less than one-third thinking the PR department should oversee social media in their business.” The survey, by a PR company, of 250 marketing directors, went on to reveal that one in five marketing chiefs believe the IT department should have control of a firm’s blogging and tweeting.
This seems to indicate that marketing directors see social media as a mere re-typing of the main points on the company website into Twitter, Facebook and blog. This is just a more advanced version of the theory that shouting loud and slow makes foreigners understand you. Some marketing directors obviously believe that PR is just repeating the marketing messages. I think it shows what I have always believed – that some marketing directors still do not fully understand the process which is PR. And they are ‘in charge’ of PR in most organisations!
Social media is now second nature to most people. If your IT department (the same one which crashed the web site last week and took a day to resurrect it) is in charge of this part of the PR process why not go one further and put HR in charge of sales accounts. They’re both about managing people after all!
To leave the management of social media to the IT Department would be like asking the telephone receptionist at Bart’s to give out helpful advice to doctors on brain surgery. (You’ll have to wait for this innovation until after the Coalition NHS cuts). I once had an IT department put all the compromising photos from the Christmas party (given to them by the unwitting snapper hired by the company to record for posterity their Christmas generosity) on the intranet despite being told not to. When the head of IT was asked for his explanation he said: “They’re IT people – they don’t think like us.”
I think the IT Department would agree with my me – they have their specializations and they should stick to them.
Marketing directors need to get out a bit more. While 29% of respondents said they would be investing more in social media in the coming year 10% said they would do so only because their rivals had. Amazing.
To me, all of the above points towards a lack of understanding within marketing about how PR builds a brand through social media. Skilful use of social media deepens understanding and communicates complex messages about the brand and its values, using the unique process of social media to engage the audience in a dialogue.

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