Why I Think Social Media is a PR Discipline

December 1, 2015 |

I’ve worked with digital agencies and online divisions for big corporations – take a look – but none ‘get’ social media like the folks here at Tank PR. I think there’s good reason for this that stems from a fundamental lack of understanding about what exactly social media is. Let me explain.

Social media is often a bolt-on to digital agencies. Digital agencies specialise in website creation, e-commerce, search engine optimisation, pay-per-click, etc., and they often do it well. I’ve never heard of one that specialises in social media – or truly for that matter, content marketing. If they do have a social offering it is invariably just channel creation, used to generate click-through, or just basic messaging – not strategy, brand voice, or creative campaign creation. I’ve often felt it’s not a natural fit in a technical environment, even though there are certainly technical elements to the job.

In-house work is similar.

Large institutions are often bogged down in tradition and have a reputation of being naturally secretive. The digital division is invariably a small part of a much larger machine, even if the company is an e-com company. Getting things passed and approved can be like pulling teeth. These are not things that lend themselves to a responsive attitude and to where employees are encouraged to use the Internet to act as brand evangelists or to learn more about the discipline.

Smaller institutions lack time, and often the role of a social media expert is a multi-tasking one that involves other marketing work. People don’t get the chance to do the research and to make this a specialism. It’s common the smaller companies don’t get time to produce content, and without your own content it’s hard to point people to your own website.

This is often true of traditional marketing agencies and creative agencies too. They don’t naturally produce opportunities for engagement and high quality art, imagery, or writing. They usually don’t have the contacts or create the opportunities to gather good social content.

In PR we have much more freedom, and a natural predilection towards seeing and generating the news. We see the value of having a plan and working towards goals. We have writers who produce good, clear, well-researched, writing that gives a clients audience genuine value. We have the skills, or if not in-house we have the contacts, to produce video and artwork due to our relationships with other agencies. PR makes news, and news works for content and content aggregation. The PR industry understands that social is a way of telling stories direct to the customer, and telling stories is what we do.

At Tank PR, every person in the company ‘gets it’ and sees the value of social – having seen it work and having seen the ROI for a big cross section of clients. We’ve a dedicated specialist producing strategy and staying at the forefront of the medium – me – and we have internal staff at every level kept up-to-speed on the latest with weekly account monitoring by my good self. I have the space to keep learning, and to experiment on my own projects, which for a discipline that moves so quickly is essential. We brainstorm content, produce targeted plans that work with the bigger picture, we’re there to capture imagery at events and we understand the audience. Raising awareness is what we do, and social is another tool in our armoury.

We’re only interested in making it work. We don’t want to run a brand’s social media if that’s not the answer that’s going to achieve the goals the client’s out to achieve. We’d rather teach them how to run their channels, mentor them, pass on the knowledge and best practices, and be at the end of the phone when they need us to explain whatever needs explaining. It’s what we do, and it’s the right approach. It works, and that’s why I’m here.

For me, I’ve never found a better fit or so had the tools for success, and at the risk of sounding preachy this isn’t only right for me it’s also right for our clients.