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June 9, 2010
Which Department Should Run Your Social Media Campaign?
As a writer in a previous life, I am amazed at how you can begin to write a piece, bound and determined on one path, only to find yourself derailed as the article unfolds. I found myself in that exact position with this article. I was all set to write about how the scope of responsibility for social media falls on everyone’s shoulders, how its effects ripple through an organization, and how it is impossible for one discipline or department to own it. 

I thought about how the media/marketing/advertising landscape has changed over the past three years, and that evolution of social media from a flash-in-the-pan idea has become mainstream for many organizations. I was thinking about how this medium has become a way of life for so many people, organizations, and businesses. 

I was prepared to ask you, the reader, who should “own” social media efforts? Should PR? Should customer service? Should marketing? Should human resources? 

For those PR-controlled organizations, perhaps the scariest question: Should we dare let our own executives have a voice on social networks?

I was prepared to answer with a resounding yes to all of the preceding questions.

After all, each one of those disciplines and individuals has their own business objectives and ultimately needs to have both a say in social media initiatives. The objective for the PR department isn’t necessarily going to be the objective for the HR department, and the objective for the executive definitely won’t mirror that of the customer service department. 

The fact of the matter, I would find out as this article was unfolding, was that wasn’t the case. While each department has specific objectives and a way of communicating an organization’s messages, at the end of the day, someone has to own the effort, or as the saying goes, no one will. 

The reality is that in 2010, public relations departments are actually the ones pulling the strings when it comes to social media budgets and strategies. (This is where my article took a different turn.) While it’s important that all of the departments I mention have their hand in social media efforts, someone has to be responsible for the strategy (yes, strategies should accompany social media initiatives).

What the Strategic Communication & Public Relations Center out of the University of Southern California found was:

  • Approximately 25 percent of companies put between 81-100 percent of budgetary control over social media in PR’s hands, compared to marketing, with only 12.6 percent getting the same level of control; and 
  • Twenty-four percent of participants reported that PR/communications departments have 81-100 percent of strategic control of social media. 
These findings were particularly interesting to me -- especially when I look at all of the departments that have their hand in social media. So, what gives? According to the study, there are four factors contributing to PR now running the social media show: 

1. PR tactics tend to be informational, rather than sales focused; 

2. PR tactics tend to emphasize a dialogue versus a monologue; 

3. PR tactics tend to embrace longer forms of communication; and 

4. PR tactics are typically associated with lower costs. 

Remember: Whoever takes control of social media for your organization, needs to understand the level of commitment involved in it. It’s not a fad; it certainly isn’t just for the younger generation, and it definitely won’t fix an already failing organization. No offense to the CSuite, but many times that’s not something that’s easily digestible (nor should it be) by the CMO or CEO. Not only that, but it’s usually the PR contact who’s accustomed to producing the kinds of metrics that the CSuite needs (and wants) to see. 

It is, however, an initiative that can (when properly executed and strategized) yield results, improvements, and satisfied consumers. There’s no question that social media is becoming the glue that bonds departments, messages, and consumers/brands together.

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Nancy Bistritz is the Director of Marketing/Communications for Montreal-based interactive agency Nurun, She works closely with teams in Nurun’s U.S. offices on public relations outreach, and marketing and business development strategies. She is also an integral part of Nurun’s worldwide communications team.

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