Where Social Media Resides

CNN’s Ali Velshi @ Council of PR Firms’ Critical Issues Forum

Last week I had the good fortune to attend the Council of PR Firms’ annual Critical Issues Forum and the PR+MKTG CAMP EAST events, both in New York City.

Some common themes emerged from the two, not the least of which had the PR industry being anointed by some big-name brand marketing execs as owning the discipline of social media marketing communications.

Here are some notable quips I culled from the Council’s best-attended yet Critical Issue Forum for agency executives:

Procter & Gamble’s Global Brand Marketing Chief Marc Pritchard:

“The biggest way for PR to ‘blow the opportunity’ is to not see the opportunity.”

“PR and social media are inseparable…they’re at least 2nd cousins.”

“Old Spice viral mktg campaign generated 2B impressions.”

“The future of marketing is tied to the future of PR”

“PR is the most authentic marketing discipline. It is PR’s time to shine.”

I especially enjoyed and appreciated that Mr. Pritchard gave credit to two of his (many) PR agencies: Marina Maher Communications and Paine PR for their work on the cases studies he showed.

Separately, Heineken USA‘s CMO Christian McMahan added these agency-directed remarks:

“Forget your standard scope of work. There’s always money available for a good idea.”

The ‘new normal’ in PR: “Think with discipline, act with courage.”

Mr. McMahan was joined on the Socratic-style Len Schlesinger-moderated panel by:

  • Ted Gilvar, Chief Marketing Officer, Monster Worldwide
  • Leontyne Green, Chief Marketing Officer, IKEA
  • Larry Solomon, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, AT&T
  • Jessica Zoob, Senior Vice President, Global Business Development, American Express

The next day I was able to catch the opening session of PR+MKTG CAMP EAST, held at the Lighthouse for the Blind headquarters. (I wonder if there is any meaning in this?)

The first panel included (left to right):

  • Frank Eliason, SVP Social Media, Citi
  • Jamie Pappas, Manager, Enterprise Social Media Strategy, EMC
  • Peter Blacker, EVP Digital Media, Telemundo Network
  • Shari Forman, Director, Social Media and Online Communications, American Express
  • Stephanie Agresta, EVP, Digital Strategy, Weber Shandwick
  • Aaron Calloway, Brand Manager AXE, Unilever

Former @ComcastCares social media chief and Twitter star Frank Eliason had this to say:

“Using regulatory as an excuse to not embrace social media is ‘a crutch'”

Re: Fox-Cablevision dust-up: “Fox is more successful in having its message resonate for consumers than Cablevision.”

“It varies from which dept (or agency) to source SM services. For Citi it’s marketing, Comcast it was communications.”

In addition, Mr. Eliason questioned Unilever’s Axe brand for using its PR agency as its online “voice.” Speaking of Axe, the brand manager Aaron Calloway was on hand. He shared these stats:

“We started year with 80K Facebook fans. We’re now at 500K but ‘still short of our goal.'”

“Social media is very much the responsibility of the PR agency.”

As for this last quote, I came away from these two conferences thinking that PR certainly does have an important role to play (ownership?) in the social media hierarchy, yet its home within the organization varies from company to company. Frank Eliason noted: At Comcast social media resided firmly in the corporate communications department, whereas at Citi it sits in the marketing department. (Eventually, most prognosticate, it’ll permeate all departments.)

Also, will social-minded companies ever grant hegemony to one type of marketing agency over another when it comes to outsourcing their social media marketing? Probably not, though the PR industry seems to have a leg up for now, unless of course Mr. Pritchard’s warning bares fruit: “The biggest way for PR to ‘blow the opportunity’ is to not see the opportunity.”


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