Social Media: For PR Pros or Marketing Mavens?


As more and more brands venture into the social media world, it can be a struggle on which team members “own” those accounts. Should social media live under your brand’s public relations (PR) team or should it stay under the marketing and advertising umbrella? While the answer may be easier to find for some brands/companies than others, in my opinion, it should be a team effort.

How can this happen? Start by breaking down department silos and recognizing each others’ strengths. It’s better to collaborate than repeat work or work against one another.

The Role of PR

Public or media relations has changed over the last few years, with the establishment of social media. It used to be that reporters were confined to their Rolodex and making phone calls and PR pros only pitched stories to traditional media outlets. Now journalists can reach out to sources in several different ways. A PR team needs to make sure it is following reporters and media outlets on social networks that may be influential to the brand. Social media allows brands to build real relationships over time, which PR professionals have always tried to develop, but now its much more accessible via social media.

Since we can follow certain journalists or influencers, it can help make pitches more relevant and less time consuming. It can also anticipate the reach of a potential pitch, by tracking that individuals followers and connections. Social media also helps PR teams eliminate the “middle man” and talk directly with consumers. It’s a great way for your brand to connect directly with a target audience. Instead of letting a reporter tell your story, tell it yourself. This can position your brand as a “friend” rather than a typical salesman.

Your PR team probably already has a good handle of the “pulse” of your audience, knowing what they like to hear about and what products or services resonate the best. PR professionals also know how to manage crisis situations and deal with damage control. We all know opening up a brand on social media can bring about positive relationships, but it can also open up your company to negative feedback. With social media’s real-time dialogue, the environment lends itself well for PR pros to do damage control and stay on message with a diverse group to deliver a consistent brand message. This is why listening and monitoring mentions can be beneficial to your brand staying in front of a PR crisis.

The Marketing Role

But before your brand hands everything social media-related off to the PR team, there is also a role for your marketing team to be involved. Social media is an environment that can be used to help sell and inform your target audience about your brand. While many people may initially “like” or follow your brand, it is the promotions, products, and developments that can keep them engaged. While your PR team can be listening for “mentions”, this is only useful if consumers are actually talking about your brand. You need to give them something to talk about. This is where targeted marketing efforts can come in handy.

As investment in social media increases, return on investment (ROI) is becoming an increasingly important metric for many companies. So, brands need to closely align product news and promotional offers to drive success. The mentions that the PR team is watching can help the marketing team develop future messaging  and campaigns, and again allow your brand to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

A Team Effort

Each brand is different. That being said I think most can benefit from using a team effort on social media, with both PR and marketing professionals. The best way to determine each role is to have clear guidelines and goals for your social networks. Are these accounts to share conversations, create buzz, monitor influencers? Or are the accounts to generate sales? Either way, both teams should be involved in the communications and messaging of your brand. If you limit your social media team to one sub-specialty or the other, you’re ultimately limiting your brand.

Questions to Consider:

Who manages social media at your organization? Do you think it’s working or does it need to change? If you don’t currently work for an organization, do you agree with me that it should be a team effort? Why or why not?

What suggestions would you have for PR and marketing teams to work together better when it comes to social media?