The evolution of PR and communications into a much more important part of the overall marketing mix is defined by the increased attention paid to it by CEOs and CMOs at corporations and brand owners.
As our monthly Q&As with CEOs and CMOs show, communications departments have a full role in informing that engagement and commissioning PR firms to produce the strategies and campaigns that build brands and businesses.
Social media is an increasing driver of that process, especially in the world of consumer products, as brands seek regular and ongoing engagement and conversation with their audiences. They are no longer satisfied just with one-off campaigns. For genuine effectiveness, the essential watchwords are now "sustained dialogue."
Brand marketing teams are increasingly integrated and have oversight of social media as part of their roles, although there are still examples of standalone digital teams in the organizational mix. The problem is that the digital specialists don't always understand the brand. This can cause problems due to the deference paid to these so-called "digital experts" by brand guardians who would never countenance some of the campaign themes that slip through the social media net if they were suggested for the traditional communications world.
The same rules apply at the agencies, where a genuinely integrated team is required if firms are to serve their clients properly in this newly converged communications environment. Agencies must be able to bring smart outside thinking to clients, but also incorporate this new thinking in a way that fits with brand values and builds businesses.
PR has a unique opportunity to take the lead in social media marketing, but it must add proper value. And activity should be just as on-brand when based in a social media environment as it is in the traditional heartland of PR and communications.
On-message communications that engage consumers and enable them to forge an ongoing and deep relationship with brands is the way to go - and smart PR pros are the people who understand that best and relish this environment.