I’ve started to notice a trend (specifically within my favorite niche: the Outdoor Industry, but I imagine it is also happening elsewhere), that has made me sit up & pay attention.  Brands are beginning to place all of their social media efforts into the hands of their PR firms.

Seems like a happy marriage, doesn’t it?  After all, good PR pros are terrific wordsmiths, and can weave a lovely yarn to tell your brand story.  Many of them are active and consistent with their communication on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  Many of them have been championing Social Media for a long time, and have a keen understanding of the tools and resources it takes to connect and converse with media, brands, and industry pros.  Appears to be a natural fit, until you take a closer look to see that when this happens, social media becomes more about self promotion than a true engagement with the brands’ target communities.

Mashable recently published Five Key Tips For a Successful Social Media Content Strategy:

  1. (1) Know Your Voice
  2. (2) Time Your Content
  3. (3) Know Your Audience
  4. (4) Solve Problems
  5. (5) Be True

As I have started to pay attention to the social media efforts being put forward by PR agencies, on behalf of their clients, I see that they are fantastic at putting #1 & #2 into play, but are only a partial success on #3 & #5.  As for #4…hello…Beueller?  Except for solving their problems by giving away product (can you call that a problem solver?  This might even be a stretch…), solving problems is a complete miss.  And this is just the start.  The content strategy above don’t even touch on the need for an overall strategy that involves engagement, SEO, or analytics, also critical.

Solving your audiences problems, as far as I’m concerned, should be #1 on the list.  It’s the voice from inside the company itself.  It’s the customer acquisition/support/retention voice.  Yes, it’s neat when a brand gets mentioned in Backpacker Mag, but what does that really do for the consumer (the people who keep the brand in business)?

I imagine that PR firms will eventually develop their business strategies to include Social Media specialists.  Mesh Marketing, for example currently partners with a great local PR firm, Fendler Communications, to help ensure that their clients are supported with a complete and carefully executed strategy when it comes to Social Media…a very happy and quickly blossoming partnership!  We’d love to partner with more…but I digress…

I would like to emphasize that I don’t think PR agencies are doing a bad job.  I just think they’re extremely busy managing their primary function, which is PR.  They are “Buzz Masters”, should, most definitely, be a part of your social media team, and should be compensated for the additional effort.

If you are considering having your PR agency manage all of your Social Media efforts, however, your #1 Question should be “Can you work with me to develop and execute a strategy that includes our true brand voice, and that can offer solutions to our customers’ problems?”  If not, you should be sure to find your own specialist, either externally or internally, that can ensure this is happens, while your PR pros are kicking butt creating buzz & getting media placements via your social platforms.

For those who want to fill in the blanks on their own, Rich Brooks of Flyte New Media recently wrote a fantastic how-to guide on Social Media Examiner.  Don’t have time or manpower to do it internally?  We can help!  Email or call us at zib.gnitekramhsemnull@olleh / 207-370-0390.