Opinion: From our Readers - PR has a handle on digital platforms

Simon Clift, Unilever's outgoing marketing chief, is right to say in the Financial Times (6 April) that PR agencies are taking an early lead in the social media world.

Research we have just released among internet users reveals that on average 36 per cent of respondents' time spent socialising with friends and co-workers is now done electronically. But more than a third also said when businesses pitch into social media they spoil the atmosphere.

The PR sector is best placed to help businesses engage, not because of some marcoms turf war, but because other communications disciplines have to retro-fit their sales-driven approaches to what is an uncommercial form of consumer-to-consumer social dialogue, whereas PR has always been about encouraging positive word-of-mouth recognition. As Clift says, 'digital PR is like word of mouth on steroids'.

Care is needed, however. A quarter of respondents had used social media to lash out at companies, and 16 per cent at employers. It is now not only powerful politicians and celebrities who get heard - it's anyone, anywhere, with something to say.

This is a new form of citizen power to which governments, companies and brands, with expert help, are having to adjust.

- Graham Lancaster, chairman, Euro RSCG Biss Lancaster.

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