I’m originally from a PR agency background and there was often debate about whether or not PR agencies should look after clients’ social media activity, too.
In many ways it makes sense: PR teams should understand a client’s key branding messages and its most newsworthy products; they can share the press and blog coverage that they’ve secured and they should understand what they can and can’t say on behalf of a client.
However, do PR agencies possess the technical knowledge required to deliver social media strategies? Are they on top of trends and do they understand how to use social media monitoring tools? Are they too focused on getting ‘free’ exposure and fail to recognize the importance of, for example, paid-for Facebook advertising or compensating bloggers? From my time at Gossip Genie, I understand these points are all vital if you want to deliver a successful social media campaign.
That’s not to say social media marketers don’t need PR skills – they certainly do, and I think all of the Genie team do a great job of combining both skill sets.
There are times when I read about social media gaffs in the news and I’m speechless. Gaffs that seriously lack PR skills and the ability to understand what is and isn’t appropriate to say on behalf of a brand. Some airline social media teams, for example, appear to need PR training.
Finnair was heavily criticized recently when it sent the following tweet on the day of the MH17 tragedy:
Of course it’s important to reassure customers, but by saying ‘Your safety is our top priority,’ it suggests Malaysian Airlines don’t take the safety of their passengers seriously by flying over Ukraine. Perhaps a carefully-worded statement on its website might have been more appropriate. What’s worse, is that Finnair was lying – the airline had been flying over Ukraine, with a Twitter user quick to share a flight path image from Flightradar as proof.
Finnair continued to deny it then suddenly backtracked to say it now wouldn’t fly through Ukraine airspace. Meanwhile the Twitter sphere went to work criticizing Finnair for its mistake.
This incident is yet another important reminder that communications and social media teams must be carefully controlled, especially during a crisis.