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Vivian Li/李雯雯

PR Manager/公关经理

Tel:0086 010 83907451


Social Media, Marketing and PR: Who's Responsible for What?

Rattling off the job titles "head of public relations," "director of marketing" and "social media manager" all in a row sounds like the start of a bad "walks-into-a-bar" joke.

In all seriousness, though, if you're wondering whether your business really needs all three teams and thus team leaders — and how they should operate — you're not alone.

It's no secret that the face of public relations has changed in a major way since the advent of social media, which typically falls under the larger umbrella of general marketing. So who is responsible for what? When does the PR team handle social? Does your business need a separate social media division? What's a growing business to do?

To sort through the confusion, we've talked to a few experts to get their opinions and advice on the matter.

A case-by-case basis

For many larger corporations, it certainly makes sense to have a full-scale marketing team, complete with a division that exclusively handles social media and at least a few positions dedicated solely to public relations. For a smaller or growing business, however, the lines are often blurred.

"It totally depends on the size and nature of the business," says Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll, a social analytics tool. "In the startup world, you're strapped for resources, and [employees] may have to wear many hats; thus small companies might not have the capacity for a full-time social media team." Atkinson adds that each business' target market affects the need for dedicated team members to handle social. "If you're selling to enterprises, [expending resources on social] may not make any sense; but

if you're selling directly to consumers, you want to be part of their direct environment." This is the major advantage of social for B2C companies, he explains — the opportunity for direct interaction with consumers, a real-time help desk.

Peter Friedman, chairman and CEO of LiveWorld, a social content marketing company, equates the "marketing mix" to a party, explaining that each element of the planning and execution is crucial to its overall success.

"Think of advertising as the invitations, PR as the promotion and digital as the arcade game at the entrance. But the party itself — the ambiance, the DJ, the bouncer, the guests themselves; talking to one another, dancing, forming relationships, having a great experience together — that's social," he says.

In this regard, because social often has a different goal (and requires a different approach) than conventional PR or advertising strategies, it should typically be treated as a separate entity within a company's marketing division. "Most social media marketing today is still traditional advertising: digital and PR broadcast messages shoved at customers through social channels. Those are all good marketing venues, but that's not social.
To be social, you must focus on creating actual back-and-forth conversations and make them more about your customers than about your brand and products," says Friedman.

For a small business that may lack the budget and resources for a dedicated social media team, individuals often find themselves taking on a number of roles that blend PR tactics, social media strategies and other marketing-related tasks. In this case, choosing the right talent for your growing business is crucial: You'll want to recruit a candidate who is capable of handling this type of juggling act. "Experience counts," says Friedman. "You want people who have demonstrated that they know [that social is] different [from traditional marketing/PR] and how to leverage those differences."

And a structure that works for a startup with ten employees will likely require modifications as a company grows. Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshdesk, a cloud-based customer support software, suggests that businesses make adjustments to roles and create teams on an as-needed basis as they scale. "While a dedicated social team isn't essential for startups, as a business acquires customers exponentially, a social team needs to be in place to handle communication and support queries coming in via Twitter and Facebook," he says.

Integrating roles for cohesive brand messaging

It's crucial that whoever handles the social media efforts for your company also integrates with the rest of the marketing team.

"There has to be a concerted effort to ensure that social is in line with strategic objectives and other marketing activities," says Yoav Schwartz, CEO of Uberflip, a content marketing platform. "It's easy to get dilutive with your social media efforts if there are too many promotions happening. At the end of the day, your content, social media and paid channels have to work together. A united team means better communication, which ultimately results in a more holistic approach to all of your promotional efforts."

Identifying clear objectives and a cohesive direction — and ensuring that all teams are aware of various projects, goals and campaigns — is key when delegating various responsibilities among social, marketing and PR teams. Your company's social media manager needs to be kept in the loop of any upcoming events or promotions being organized by the marketing team (and vice versa). Public relations should get involved whenever a potentially brand-damaging post pops up on social. It ultimately comes down to establishing clear channels of communication — a daily or weekly team meeting or conference call (or, at the very least, an email correspondence) that keeps everyone up-to-speed is one way to promote an environment of collaboration instead of isolated confusion.

To ensure crystal-clear communication among various departments, SumAll's Atkinson suggests at least one member of each team be present at meetings, brainstorm sessions, etc. "Someone might have a brilliant marketing idea, but if it’s impossible to execute on social media or is totally off-brand, that's when the social team can chime in, or the idea can be reworked." He adds that this type of collaboration works both ways. "Brand, marketing and social media can often work in tandem: If the social team sees a campaign working particularly well, that can fuel the type of content [that marketing] creates.

You can sort of think of it as three arms on the same body. When it’s working, all three arms are juggling the same bean bags perfectly."

Controlling the conversation

Social media has, in essence, turned traditional PR on its head. "In the past, PR was very much about controlling the message. You can't do that [on social]; You have to embrace the dialogue and your customers as they are, then influence and guide the conversation," says Friedman.

Because of this shift, it's important that PR and social teams work together to establish an environment in which businesses can build relationships with brand advocates, which can be found with tools like SocialRank. Part of this process comes down to keeping a close eye on the ongoing, online conversation about your brand. There are a number of tools available to make this easier — Atkinson suggests HootSuite and Schwartz names Radian6, Sysomos and TrackMaven for larger brands — and some of these tools can actually designate specific team members to deal with certain subjects or hashtags when they come up in social mentions. In addition, all team members — PR, marketing and social — should be actively keeping an eye on industry-related keywords via notification systems such as Google Alerts.

Vivian Li

PR Manager

Tel: +86 010 8390 7451

Mobile: +86 13041030670