The Importance of Leveraging Social Media Expertise

The Importance of Leveraging Social Media Expertise
February 5, 2017 Kelly McFalls

Help Explore Best Practices for Leading Inter-Departmental Collaboration


By Kirsten Whitten, adjunct lecturer of communication and public relations at Curry College, Stonehill College and Regis College, Ph.D. candidate of Regent University and PRSA Boston Member

Public relations (PR) publications and conferences nationwide are focusing on the importance of staying relevant in today’s collaborative environment. Last year’s PRSA Strategic Collaboration Conference focused on “multidisciplinary knowledge, actionable approaches and critical skills” necessary to become and stay significant to an organization’s communications strategies”.

This was also a topic of discussion at PRSA’s Annual Northeast District Conference (PRXNE) in Boston in June 2016. During this assembly, the panelists in the C-Suite Success discussion focused on the importance of education and leadership in working with c-suite executives. Moderator Carl Langsenkamp, Senior Marketing Manager for Xerox Corp. asked panelists Duane Brozek, Senior Corporate Communications and Public Relations Executive for Epson America, and Jane Carpenter, head of Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Wayfair, how they position themselves as leaders in collaborative planning across the organizations they represent. Jane pointed out the importance of “integrating with marketing to work together for unity in brand infinity”. Duane said he, “positions [himself] as a partner [by] making sure he is a part of the [c-suite] conversation”.

One area where PR professionals can impress corporate executives is in social media relations. Since public relations and corporate communication professionals have had primary responsibility for social media monitoring and participation since its inception (USC Annenberg, 2012, 2014), it seems plausible that they could leverage this expertise to take a leadership role in planning these responsibilities across the organizations they represent. But to take advantage of this opportunity, industry experts point out that PR executives need to act more boldly. As Fred Cook, Director of the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations and CEO of Golin, said recently in a PRWeek interview, “My outlook in the future of PR is simply that PR needs more balls and I translate balls to mean courage“.

As a PR professional, educator, and Ph.D. student, I wondered about the current state of this situation and what type of guidance is available for PR executives to answer this call. I found that a handful of prominent PR companies and scholars have offered models for guiding collaborative efforts, but most of these do not focus on leveraging social media expertise as the guiding principle. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to survey PR, corporate communication and social media executives to explore what types of leadership styles and collaborative planning practices have resulted in successful social media integration efforts. If you would like to help answer this question for our industry, please take this 8-minute survey:

My hope is that the results of this study will unveil specific strategies and methods that PR executives can use in their quest to lead successful collaboration of social media efforts across the organizations they represent. Also, please feel free to comment to this post and share your own experiences in leading social media initiatives across functions


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