Digital 'too low' a priority for firms is message at PRWeek conference

Senior marketer warns PRWeek conference against digital complacency.

Habitat: drew flak for intern's Twitter blunder
Habitat: drew flak for intern's Twitter blunder

A big brand marketing director has hit out at the large number of firms that are failing to prioritise digital comms.

Speaking at PRWeek's Global Conference last week, LG Electronics European marketing director Dominic Chambers said digital strategy was 'too low down in companies'.

He pointed out that online management often continued to sit within a client's IT department.

'The risk is that it becomes more company-serving, rather than consumer-serving,' said Chambers. 'It gets structured more as a publishing site, rather than a comms site.'

The LG marketing chief said companies were 'behind the pace' of consumer changes where digital was concerned. 'In general, the industry needs to speed up,' he said. 'It's partly structural and it's partly about senior people not being as close to it, because of their age.'

Speaking at the same panel, BMW UK corporate comms director Graham Biggs admitted integrating digital remained 'fairly painful'. He said: 'It is quite hard to persuade or sell the idea that the internet is an important thing.'

Opinions were also split over which discipline should lead digital within companies. Chambers said comms needed to win this 'turf war', while others countered that digital should be split among different company functions.

Mark Adams, co-founder of Next Fifteen and consulting firm The Conversation Group, pointed out that a digital 'battleground' within corporates remained common.

'There needs to be an IT person who is a communicator,' said Adams. 'For PR people, this poses a problem, because their technical skills are usually low.'

He added that 'avoidance strategies' often saw companies divesting digital responsibility to junior executives.

Earlier this year, Habitat was criticised when an intern inserted promotional brand messages into the Iranian election protest Twitter stream.

'It's challenging stuff,' said Adams. 'The upside is unquantifiable at the moment. Most social comms involves a human being articulating a viewpoint on behalf of a company - and that very often goes against trademark, intellectual property, confidentiality, protocol and control.'

Chambers singled out British Airways as an example of a company that had made its website a 'fundamental part' of its business. 'You have to have digital at the centre,' he said.



Online management still sits in the IT department, whereas companies progressing quickly in online engagement should put it in marketing and communications, with IT as a support function. Or, it would be better to outsource the whole lot. Companies are behind the pace of what's going on with consumers.


Most firms use avoidance strategies or lip-service strategies. 'Let's get some monkey in the basement to run a Twitter account and then we'll review it in a year's time.' It's not uncommon.


- 30% of senior PROs think online videos and communities are important

- 70% expect online videos will be most important interactive channel in 2010

- 41% of senior PROs use online media to monitor opinion building

- 50% use social media to demonstrate innovation and openness


Source: European Communication Monitor 2009.

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