This post was prompted by the series Todd Defren, Paul Roberts, Lou Hoffman and Steve Farnsworth are doing about communications issues. On Wednesday each has been posting the answer to a critical question relevant to the communications industry. Today the question is, “What Role Should A Communications Agency Play In A Client’s Social Media?”
As an executive at a PR agency I believe that communications agencies should play a role in social media. What role they play depends on where the client is in their strategy. For some clients the communications agency is the one that opens the door on social media. Believe it or not there are still companies that don’t embrace Twitter or blog or want to have anything to do with Facebook. For these clients the agency acts as a guide giving the client an overview of the opportunities that social media presents, the risk of not participating in the dialogue around their market and brand and recommendations and strategy on the right programs for them to dip their toes in the water. Good agencies will also offer services — building a Twitter following, or a social media press room or a blog.
There are also clients who have already taken the plunge — they may be on Twitter, have a Facebook page and are comfortable with what Josh Bernoff calls the “Goundswell”. Here the agency can play the role of strategic advisor and counselor in meshing their social media activities with their media and analyst relations activities. A good agency should be able to evaluate what you are doing and bring back recommendations to improve and enhance the activities. You may be on Twitter but what’s the impact of your Tweeting? Is your blog reaching the right people? How can you expand your visibility to build engagement and readership? More importantly the communications agency will recommend how social media should be tightly integrated with the PR program. Should you do a YouTube video? A promotion on Twitter? Should you build a specialized Tumblr for a product introduction?
Those are the two scenarios I most run into, but they are by no means the only ones. A company looking to build the most ROI from their communications program should avoid stove piping its communications partners and activities. If marketing is saying it “owns” social media and is hesitant about collaborating with your PR agency that should be an immediate red flag. Companies that limit input from their partners are limiting their success and losing potential opportunities to build visibility. Marketing, for example, may be running a viral program that PR can help promote. Your Facebook page could see a jump in followers by targeting a few key influencers that PR has relationships with.
A company’s communication’s agency should always have a seat at the social media table. Of course, whether they earn the right to stay is up to them.