Danny Rogers: Firms need to get the measure of digital

The explosion of 'social' media has injected new life into a comms sector that would otherwise be moribund thanks to this severe cyclical downturn.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

But there is a real danger that client organisations will make the same mistakes with this new, youthful incarnation of public relations, as they did with traditional media relations.

The first mistake is to put social media dialogue into a silo, rather than strategically integrating it throughout an organisation.

Despite the fact that many of their employees are happily tapping away on Facebook or Twitter, too many firms fail to address this fact. Instead, as consultant Mark Adams puts it so directly on page three, they think: 'Let's get some monkey in the basement to run a Twitter account and we'll review it in a year's time.'

LG marketing boss Dominic Chambers, speaking at PRWeek's Global Conference, put it more diplomatically, arguing that digital comms should be 'moved out of IT, into marketing and PR'.

He is right, of course. Firms must not view digital as they once viewed PR: as a support service. Instead it should be at the heart of business strategy, because this is already how many of their customers encounter it.

The second big mistake is failing to measure digital comms properly. The inability to agree on how to evaluate PR has proven an historical millstone around the industry's neck.

But, owing to the nature of digital, there is no excuse for failing to measure it. The problem is that we're several years into the social media boom, yet little standardisation is apparent.

But it is not too late. In January 2010 the UK Online Measurement Company, in partnership with advertising industry tracking stalwart Nielsen, is launching an industry-agreed audience online planning system.

Can the PR industry adapt this system to its own use? Can it develop something similar?

One would strongly encourage some efforts in this respect. Because unless we can measure digital PR, how are we ever going to own it?

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