Where does social media fall – marketing or PR?

It’s a common question for companies that are testing the waters of social media: should social media efforts fall under the responsibility of marketing? Or of public relations? If you look at some traditional definitions, the answer becomes a bit clearer.

Although they work closely together, marketing and public relations play separate important roles. Traditional marketing is all about the four P’s: product, pricing, placement and promotion. Knowing your target audience is critical, but marketing typically is one-way communication through ads, direct mail, websites, etc. (Although, it’s important to note, smart companies are slowly trying to move beyond one-way marketing communication.)

Public relations, on the other hand, is all about connecting a company with its publics in a mutually beneficial way. At its very core, it’s about engaging the audience and having a two-way conversation.

We know that social networking enables people to communicate directly and connect with a company, controlling the interaction in ways that were never possible before. Because of this, it seems clear to me that social media naturally falls under public relations.

According to recent research conducted by iPressroom and PRSA, public relations is indeed taking the lead in controlling social media. According to Michael G. Cherenson, PRSA’s 2009 Chair and CEO, “The 2009 Digital Readiness Report found that public relations professionals are firmly in the lead when it comes to managing an organization’s use of social media communications channels.” The study concludes that the majority of the time, public relations manages blogging, microblogging and social networking.

So it seems obvious that social media should be a public relations responsibility. The bigger question is this: are you incorporating social media into your public relations and marketing communications plans? If not, it’s time to start considering the possibilities.

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