The ownership of social media in the company atmosphere

As public relations students, it has become our nature to assume that part of our job description (post-graduation) will likely include implementing and maintaining relationships through social media channels. After all, we’re communication specialists, right?

Well, in a post on A Shel of My Former Self titled, “Who should own social media? Everybody and nobody” (it’s a couple posts down on the blog) Shel Holtz says, “no single department should own social media”, a change-of-heart on his earlier view that ownership should belong to PR.

Holtz says a “cross-functional” model (bringing in team members from each department) should apply to social media standards as well. Having  equal participation among employees from all sectors is the most effective way to strategically address company needs.

If this is true, haven’t we lost a slice of our value as a PR practitioner?

In recent class discussions we have addressed a problem students will likely face when entering into the job world: explaining  the importance of PR and how leveraging tools (like social media) are vital to any company’s success. Additionally, we have discussed the importance of distinguishing  communication goals from business goals, which are often at the forefront of top management.

If this becomes a common theme, where do we establish our expertise in the realm of social media? Will we be forced to hand over our second language, an integral part of our job, and take one for the team?

If this is the case, I think it will continue to be our responsibility to oversee operations relating to social media. I see how the integration of all departments would better represent the face of the company but feel the need to understand different public’s is a learned skill that comes only with proper research and practice.

Mentioned in Holtz post: 1 Good Reason- Social Marketing blog post “The HR Department Should Own Social Media”

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11 Responses to The ownership of social media in the company atmosphere

  1. ecain says:

    You bring up a valid point in this blog post. If social media is not for the most part exclusive to public relations, then we have lost a little bit of what sets us apart from other related fields. However, in my experience at my agency internship, everyone utilizes social media. On my first day I was told to never be embarrassed to get caught being on Twitter or Facebook, because they encourage it. I have also noticed that the people I follow at the agency all work together to retweet messages that benefit our clients. It is a collective effort throughout the agency from the PR team to the creative team to retweet messages benefiting our clients so that the message goes out to all of our different followers. However, I do notice that the PR team is mostly responsible for managing the Twitter accounts. Overall while I do hope that social media stays a specific specialty to PR practitioners, I think that it is important for all members of a business to utilize social media in some way.

  2. Dawn Gilpin says:

    Emily, great post topic. A couple of technical notes:

    – When you link to a blog post, don’t just link to the blog itself. You can find the URL for the specific post you want by clicking on the title, which will take you to the post’s page. Please fix this: we want people to be able to follow this discussion even if they only find it months from now, long after Shel’s post is off the front page of his blog;

    – You have a punctuation (apostrophe) error near the end.

    As for content, remind me to talk a little about the difference between the doctor model and the coaching model of PR. Too long for a comment. (Or at least, too long for a comment to people I’m going to have in class in two days!)

  3. sferrer says:

    Although, I understand Shel’s arguments defending that not one department in an organization should own social media; I beg to differ. Responsibilities of each department in a company are universally established. Departments like IT, sales, customer service, marketing, human resources and PR serve distinct purposes for the company. If companies adopt the “cross-functional model” in social media, then why should different departments exist?

    Let the PR professionals who are the communication experts solely handle the communicating. PR professionals are educated and trained in traditional media relations and emerging social media. They already work closely with editors and reporters from various media outlets that use social media platform, Twitter, to publicize their content and provide another conduit for news. Blogs, another social media platform, are maintained by bloggers. Among the PR professionals, advertisers, marketers and sales consultants, bloggers also share the strongest relationships with PR professionals.

  4. sclarke says:

    I agree that PR practitioners should utilize social media as a top communication tool. As an intern and undergrad student, we are being taught how to produce a meaningful and convincing message in so little as 140 characters (twitter). This communication method, ultimately can be implemented by PR professionals.

    However, I don’t think social media such as Facebook and Twitter should only be practiced by PR. In my last internship, the marketing department was in charge of social media. We had each department send us a list of tweets that we would pick out for the week. So everyone was able to give their input and post what they thought was beneficial.

  5. mkuhl says:

    I thought this was a great topic choice! It is very relevant to what we are discussing in our classes and what has been changing rapidly in the public relations field.

    My view on who should be in charge of social media is a moderate approach. I think that as a PR specialist, it is part of our duty to ensure the public builds and maintains good relationships with our clients. One way to do this is through social media. If social media is being used as means for these purposes, then yes, absolutely, it should be in the hands of a PR specialist. However, a lot of people use social media for things that aren’t so business-oriented. In these cases I think it would be alright if someone other than a PR specialist stepped in and tweeted or updated their status.

    I personally think it should stay in the hands of people from PR, however, I don’t think it is a big deal for other people to utilized these tools.

  6. ncano says:

    I have to agree that PR or marketing possibly should own social media in a company. Sometimes there can be one PR employee and three marketing employees and I believe that the PR employee already has enough going on in the company that possibly marketing can step up and take control over social media. Take for instance Twitter. There are tons of companies on there that aren’t really informing the public, but simply “marketing” a product or the company as a whole and not building relationships via Twitter. I think if there are more than one PR employee than they should be in charge of social media, however, every now and then it’s not wrong to want to include another employee from a different department to blog this week’s entry or allow marketing to assist or even run their company’s social media. I think you can incorporate others, but it should be mainly handled through PR or marketing.

  7. bjohnson says:

    It is a very timely topic regarding the role that PR practitioners play in the corporate world. I think we have special skills that many other professional may not realize to be vital in their organizations. Your point about sharing the load definitely has me questioning how others would perform our learned techniques and skills. I dare say that other professionals would have a difficult time doing the things we have been taught such as developing relationships and strategically analyzing conversations.

  8. edean says:

    After considering all the good that can come from teamwork, I completely agree with you. I think it is important for any company to actively participate in maintaining a positive company image so I can understand why you have seen that throughout your agency experiences. The fact that you were told not to be embarrassed “being caught on Twitter or Facebook” is very interesting because I have found in most work atmospheres, it would be viewed as a product of slacking off. This illustrates the ongoing shift in business attitudes as we continue to explore the benefits of social media.

    Dr. Gilpin-
    Thank you for the advice. I changed the link so readers can be correctly directed to either the Web site or the individual article. I will certainly remind myself to speak up in class on this topic. I look forward to a discussion of a doctor model vs. coaching model of PR.

    Initially, I have to say I was on the same page. As I think about my past jobs, I recall most issues having resulted from miscommunication among departments. For this reason alone I think it is important to include others in social media, as its purpose is to represent the company as a whole. On the other hand, I think content should begin, be maintained and edited by the hands of a PR professional before publishing.

  9. edean says:

    I think we are in agreement. I am also glad you brought up your internship experience. I think your company’s idea to send out tweets to gain employee feedback is a great idea. While still keeping the framework of the marketing department, it effectively incorporates other staff opinions.

    Slightly the same idea, but I like how you bring up the company’s purpose for using social media to determine who runs it. If a company is just trying to maintain relationships with specific clients, a PR person who has done the research and has an idea of consumer interests might be better equipped for the job. On the other hand, if a large company wants to become more transparent to the public, a combination of participants could prove more effective.

  10. edean says:

    Nathalie- I agree that the primary influence of social media should come from the PR person but at the same time I have come to think everyone in the company should be included in the company perception. This happens to be widely projected through social media. I also agree with you that many company’s make the mistake to market products through social media, which is easily seen and often deters people from using that company. Thank you for your input.

  11. edean says:

    Britnee- I think the majority of us feel that no matter who “owns” social media, a PR practitioner should be highly involved. Perhaps playing the role of a “social media consultant” would ensure the conversation continued to create and maintain a positive, symmetrical relationships.

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