The study found that PR generally leads several aspects of digital communications, including blogging, where PR leads at 49% of organizations, compared to 22% for marketing. PR also leads microblogging (52% to marketing's 22%), and social networking (48% to 27%). Marketing usually leads e-mail marketing and SEO aspects of digital communications.
"Social media puts the consumer in control, and PR professionals have always interacted with customers who are in control, also managing the brand reputation and relationship with them," said Barbara McDonald, VP of marketing for PRSA. "It really is almost a no-brainer that PR would be taking the lead in the social media environment."
Several industry professionals commented to PRWeek separately that they have seen these findings play out within their work.
"The findings are in line with not only what we expect, but what we're experiencing," said Corey duBrowa, president of account services for Waggener Edstrom. "Our industry is utilizing, and in some ways even pioneering the use of, these tools."
"The way we look at it, social media is a subset of word-of-mouth in many ways, so for us, it's a natural extension of some of the things we're already doing on the PR side," said Greg Zimprich, director of brand PR for General Mills. But, he added, the company works to teach the entire company best practices and benchmarking, saying, "We see social media as a competency that really will reach across the organization."
Jonathan Kopp, the global director of Ketchum Digital, suggested that PR will continue to lead the way in digital, because "the speed of engagement is changing in the digital space and PR moves faster than advertising and marketing, so it gives them an opportunity."
He also explained that PR agencies are working with clients to set up social media policies, train employees in social media, and create social media divisions within organizations, cementing their position as digital leaders.
The report also found that social networking skills are increasingly important for PR job candidates. Eighty percent of respondents said knowledge of social networking is either important or very important for a job candidate, compared to 82% saying traditional media relations was important or very important.
The 2009 Digital Readiness Report surveyed 278 PR, marketing, and HR professionals over six weeks in this past spring.