Is PR going through the social media motions?

I recently wrote a piece for PR News Online about why it still feels PR agencies are missing the social media boat.  There's talk-sure, but not enough action (i.e. participation). 

Too many PR agencies are doing social media the way ad agencies do PR. Of course, I'm generalizing when I say this. But I've been in lots of meetings where ad folks equate PR with publicity—for the ad campaign.

And while publicity/media relations is still a fundamental part of our job, it's not the be-all and end-all—unless, that is, you happen to be a publicist and your goal is generating loads of that proverbial buzz.

Unfortunately, we can draw a similar analogy when it comes to PR and social media. Too many firms claim they understand it, yet simply add blogger outreach or Facebook page management to their services toolkit.  

To continue, please visit PR News.

Please let me know what you think and some of the other things our industry could be doing. Is there still time for PR as an industry (and not individuals) to take a leadership role in social media?

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman is a digital, social media and communications strategist, content marketer, social media trainer and instructor and co-founder of three PR agencies. He blogs at myPALETTE and hosts the Inside PR podcast.

Tyler Orchard
Tyler Orchard

Great post on PR News, Martin. I find it refreshing that someone with your background addresses this issue, because in my personal opinion, I share the same view as you. Of course, there are some agencies out there (as your highlight, Thornley Fallis) that are embracing social media in the right manner. However, there are far too many agencies and even professionals that offer only lip-service and minimalist insight into the nuances and key components of a social media strategy or campaign. There seem to be a lot of people who can describe the "what" of social media, as you mentioned, but only a limited few who understand and can speak on the way each component works together to deliver on a specific objective or target.

We can all describe social media from a cosmetic standpoint, but too often we fail to focus on understanding its ROI and how setting clear and predetermined objectives shape an agency's ability to truly harness social media's benefits. I think it's a dangerous undertaking to offer social media strategy or services without understanding what it represents for a client from a macro perspective.

My personal opinion is that far too many practitioners in this space view social media through a very narrowly defined lens. Being "in" the space isn't where anyone should stop - it has to be more about learning and shaping our practice. There is a need to understand how social media contributes to certain deliverables by using measurement and analysis that is tailored to the environment it operates in.

I should note that I admire your reference to James Grunig's two-way symmetrical communications and consensus building. I think his work revolutionized communications and PR, but it also still speaks to today's realities.

Your four essentials for every agency were spot on. Although, I believe participation is the most important of them all. I believe participation is the starting point that allows us to listen, learn and practice. I should note that participation in the form of simple "sharing' is not what I mean. There is a dire need for people in this world to focus on critical analysis, due diligence and constructive debate/dialogue. I find there is too much blind approval that stifles the advancement of an idea.

Your post on PR News is a perfect example. There are a few hundred shares, but only one comment. Where is the dialogue on the topic? We find this all too often today. It is more about sharing and re-sharing than it is about moving an idea or a theory forward. This is how an industry advances and grows. Not to mention it is directly reflective of our personal and professional development as individuals.

Martin, you bring up some incredible points in your article and I think you've highlighted some very crucial steps that need to be taken. Social media isn't just an add-on, nor is it just another tool to offer. It needs to be viewed as an integrated element of an agency or a professional. However, I supplement that with the fact that the understanding of social media and how it is used is even more important. PR has the opportunity to take social media to an entirely new level, but effort and an investment of time and knowledge is required.