One of the fictional case studies we considered related to advising an eager senior exec who wanted to blog, be active in social media, etc. One the one hand, we had participants who felt the recommendation was not to get involved – but others felt more optimistic about the opportunity.
Unfortunately most of the good examples (as cited by Gillin such as Google and Southwest Airline) are the major global brands out of their head offices (mainly US-based). This presents a challenge for national PR teams – should they press for country-specific social media or is a global resource sufficient? Obviously we can’t play a language card from the UK, but there are cultural differences that may not be reflected by a single centralised resource. And, when the point of social media is to engage, isn’t some local connection preferable?
The one example of a good UK corporate blog – Avis We Try Harder – raises the second issue. That of where responsibility for social media should lie. In the Avis example, the blog is run by the customer relations team. Gillin believes:
the PR function should own it [social media], and has the opportunity to own it because they are the story tellers. They are the relationship experts and these really are about relationships.
But he notes:
That said, in most companies it is falling under the aegis of marketing. For some reason PR people seem to be kind of timid about this whole thing and marketers are more aggressive about seizing the initiative.
This tends to echo my own observations as PR practitioners are definitely interesting, but I’ve not seen many who’ve really grabbed the opportunity within their own organisations yet.
Gillin clarifies the need to have wider organisational empowerment in respect of social media, including senior execs. This was emphasised by one of our participants who has recently taken up the new role of new media public relations manager at BMW (UK). His view was that such responsibility requires an ability to build bridges and support initiatives throughout the organisation.