PR must brace for challengers to its role leading social media

The battle to decide who "owns" social media marketing is heating up. Publicis is the latest agency network to address the way it tackles social media at a group level.

The battle to decide who "owns" social media marketing is heating up. Publicis is the latest agency network to address the way it tackles social media at a group level.

Through its VivaKi media division, the French-owned marketing services group is conducting a systematic audit and assessment of the way it tackles social media services for its clients. The aim is to get the constituent parts across its agency network - including PR - working together at a group level and sharing expertise for the ultimate benefit of its clients.

Such group initiatives have a mixed history, with many abandoned after a few frustrating months of trying to force people to work together who simply don't want to cooperate.

Last month's PRWeek/ MS&LGroup Social Media Survey showed media agencies were at the bottom of the food chain when it came to CMOs selecting the agency they were going to work with on social media. So perhaps it's not surprising the impetus seems to be coming from this area of the networks.

PR firms needn't feel threatened by the group initiatives, but they must make sure they play a full part in the strategies that emerge. In a way, it's a microcosm of the overall development of communications and the agencies that provide these services.

PR agencies should lead the way in social media, just as they are increasingly taking a lead role in overall marketing strategy. However, advertising, media, and digital shops see a potential paycheck out there in both social media and PR, so they are aggressively chasing these new areas of business, sometimes in a clumsy fashion, but sometimes with success.

The theme of PRWeek's annual NEXT conference, to be held on November 9 in New York, is "The Age of Opportunity" (visit prweekus.com/next2010 for details) - and this is without doubt a time of fantastic potential for PR and communications. But with all opportunities come risks as well. PR and communications pros must ensure they are still at the center of the client's thoughts and continue to come up with the best ideas for brands, corporations, and organizations, whether in social media or communications generally. It's no time to be complacent.

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