Cross-Functional Efforts Key to Social Marketing

Howard Sholkin
Howard Sholkin

The rapid growth of social channels, blogs and LinkedIn has grabbed the attention of professionals throughout most every organization. And public relations departments, of course, have been among the earliest adopters of social media. Consumers upset with a product, service or how they are treated no longer have to send a complaint email or simply grin and bear it. They can share a gripe with their networks and grab the attention of a company, and, in some cases, gain a satisfactory resolution to the complaint.

On occasion, the issue can morph into a news story or trigger so much social chatter that PR must get involved.

Here’s a road map to make sure you are prepared for when social channels go, well, social, and avoid being reactionary.

▶ Social marketing usually does not live in isolation. It is part of a marketing model that has become quite popular:

Paid: Ads and other sponsorships that must be purchased for promotion.

Owned: Websites, social media company pages and any content controlled by the company.

Earned: This is where social comes in, as the content needs to be of enough value to be shared or talked about.

PR is the closest of all marketing communication disciplines to the earned part of the “POE” model.

Media relations is built around positively influencing third-party sources with announcements and ongoing relationships with reporters, bloggers, analysts and influencers.

Social programs are often built around links to content, including news releases, articles generated by PR, blogs, case studies and white papers.

With these kind of assets, PR agency Edelman is moving into media buying based on native advertising, built around journalistic-style material (PR pros’ strength) that is placed near relevant editorial.

Yet to produce appropriate multimedia content requires input not just by PR, but marketing, technical and product specialists, sales, customers and senior executives.

It’s pull more than push.

Social networks flip the push mentality that has driven marketing and advertising for decades. The pull of earned media requires understanding, empathy, and content that is valued by the intended audiences.

IDG Global Solutions (IGS) marketing efforts in the U.S., for example, are led by communicators and digital marketers, with big assists from colleagues and third-party sources. The focal point of both content marketing and links for social networks is the IDG Knowledge Hub.

Launched in 2008, the Knowledge Hub could not exist without content from throughout IDG, including research from media brands and sister IT market research company IDC.

These companies welcome the visibility and promotion their content receives in the Knowledge Hub. The site features:

• Abstracts and links to articles, commentaries and research from around the Web covering digital marketing, media, social media, mobile, technology industry and international issues and trends.

• News articles and news releases about International Data Group (IDG), the parent company of IGS and IDG subsidiaries. The majority of the content is more informational than promotional, a key requirement for earned media.

A new edge to your PR career.

PR professionals are in a great position to take a leadership position in earned media, but it may not be easy.

Communicators should use at least a few of the social platforms to forge a coalition of socially minded professionals across their organizations.

Identify a few business objectives to start, before the coalition agrees on a course of action, participants and metrics. You may be surprised by the results. PRN


Howard Sholkin is director of communications and marketing programs at IDG Global Solutions. Follow him on Twitter, @hsholkin.

This article appeared in the August 19 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.

  • Richard T. Cole

    I think you mean social media marketing? Social marketing has a well established definition…”Social marketing was “born” as a discipline in the 1970s, when Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman realized that the same marketing principles that were being used to sell products to consumers could be used to “sell” ideas, attitudes and behaviors. Kotler and Andreasen define social marketing as “differing from other areas of marketing only with respect to the objectives of the marketer and his or her organization. Social marketing seeks to influence social behaviors not to benefit the marketer, but to benefit the target audience and the general society.”