Why some PR agencies should never manage their clients’ social media

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

For any business, no matter how large or small or the sector in which they operate, social media is an essential part of the marketing arsenal. It used to be called ‘social media marketing’ but today we categorise it as a key component within ‘digital PR’. At a time when corporate reputations can be built and crushed in an instant, social media’s role within the promotional mix cannot be understated. So, why are some PRs so dire at doing it?

Some time ago, I was at an event attended by PR agency leaders to discuss the various challenges and opportunities facing our industry both in the here and now and those that lie ahead. When we broached the topic of social media, I was rather taken aback when one person commented that we – as in Clearly PR – do “too much” on Twitter and LinkedIn. Eh? Were they serious? The answer was yes. But, how much is too much, I asked?

It sparked a debate – one that would see me very much in the minority. Take Twitter as a case in point. Standard practice, it appeared, would be for these agencies to post just one Tweet day for their clients. This, they suggested, was “sufficient”. I replied to the contrary and suggested there was a clear lack of understanding of what social media actually does for clients…it didn’t win me many friends, but I was right – the stats back me up.

Indeed, each Tweet has a lifespan of 18 minutes. Based on the activity undertaken by these agencies, their clients will get 18 minutes’ worth of opportunities to be seen per day. That is nothing short of poor. It’s no surprise to learn that said agencies state that social media is more of a nice-to-have than a must-have PR and marketing tool. They are wrong.

More than half of business leaders cite social media has the potential to positively or negatively impact their corporate reputation

We have a minimum commitment of five Tweets per day per day. This gives each client 90 minutes’ worth of opportunities to be seen by their target audience. Over the course of a month, that’s around 2,000 minutes of online exposure compared to just 396 minutes generated by those other agencies…the words ‘short changed’ spring to mind here.

I’m not just talking about exposure, social media plays a key role in reputation management, too.

A report published by Deloitte and Forbes found that 40% of business leaders placed corporate reputation risk at the top of the boardroom agenda, ahead of threats to their business model (32%), the economy and increased competition (27%).

Moreover, over half (53%) of business leaders cite social media as having the potential to positively or negatively impact their corporate reputation. In fact, research conducted by global PR giants Weber Shandwick, 68% of business leaders state that their online presence is the biggest driver of reputation.

So, why do some agencies fail to protect and promote the reputations of the clients? Perhaps the lack the time to source the stories needed to keep their clients’ social channels updated frequently? This is hard to buy into, given the plethora of new aggregator platforms at their disposal.

Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the influence social media really has? If they posted regularly across their own social channels they would see for themselves. Indeed, over the last four years, we can attribute at least five new client wins that have come as a result of our social media activity, not to mention the speaker and media opportunities generated.

Managing corporate reputation effectively means maximising the potential presented by a variety of tools, from managing the message via key spokespeople and the media, to content creation and of course social media. It can take time to build and maintain an online presence, but the returns on that time investment are more than worthwhile both in terms of the reputation and the bottom line of the organisation.

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