Corporate communications grabs the social media brass ring

Is corporate communications taking the reins on social media once and for all?

Is corporate communications taking the reins on social media once and for all? At Cohn & Wolfe's most recent “Dinner & Dialogue” event, a common theme among the 20 corporate communicators in attendance was a welcome shift toward greater control – and sophistication – of their social media strategies.

Case in point: one global technology giant recently shifted control of social media channels from corporate marketing to communications. Why? According to the executives in attendance, social media traffic and engagement were coming in swings and spikes, correlating with the company's campaign orientation. But at the corporate level, a successful social media presence relies on day-by-day, minute-by-minute engagement that leverages news from both inside and outside the company, best served by the 24/7 news orientation of the communications team.

While social media is widely adopted by brands and products, its application at the corporate level, particularly in highly regulated industries, is still inconsistent. A year ago, another group of Dinner & Dialogue guests cited the legal and compliance team as the No. 1 barrier to social media adoption. This year, compliance took a back seat. It seems many corporate communicators have forged close partnerships with compliance that have guided social media strategy, rather than stall it.

With social media now clearly in their job descriptions, how are corporate communicators filling the explosive need for content? A pleasant surprise, nearly every guest mentioned having an editorial calendar to guide content development needs throughout the year. (This wasn't the case a year ago.) While many guests said they still struggle with filling content needs, most use some combination of the following: hiring writers or former journalists on staff to populate media, re-purposing internal research and thought leadership assets, and partnering with third-party news and information sources.

So, while social media hasn't been universally integrated across the corporate communications function, there's been tremendous progress in just one year. The next frontier? Not a single guest had issued news exclusively via social media channels, although several had done so in conjunction with a traditional press release. Regulatory concerns and disclosure policies, of course, will continue to influence corporate news dissemination; but when the day comes that public companies are forgoing the press release and issuing quarterly earnings via LinkedIn or Twitter, then we'll know that all the old rules are gone.

Michael Bayer is EVP and North American corporate practice director at Cohn & Wolfe.

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