As I was researching PR and digital media, I came across a report that explores the top ten digital challenges facing communications
practitioners, looks at the impact on each of the key communications
disciplines, investigates the use and uptake of social media tools, and
identifies the role and key responsibilities of heads of digital communications.
It says that PR professionals are still having a hard time getting their arms around measurement. This is probably due to the fact that like their counterparts in media, they're by and large digital immigrants.
Chief communicators and PR professionals on the corporate side also tend to be much more conservative than their marketing colleagues. That's because press releases and media activities are generally watched more closely by senior managers and legal teams.
The May 2010 report was compiled after face to face interviews with 40 senior communicators involved in digital media, in addition to authors and academics. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the four stages of social media readiness.
The "Crawling" Stage
(generally corporate entities owning multiple businesses and B2B organizations)
- creating and hosting the company Web site, including an online press page
- securing the worldwide usage of the company name online
- locking down online security issues across the organization
- ensuring adequate ownership of relevant URLs
- managing the internal blog
Although this sounds like a very good first stage, often PR professionals are outpaced in digital media by their marketing colleagues who go straight to external blogs and outposts, without building the internal communications infrastructure necessary to support the organization as it sprawls in digital media.
In my experience, organizations that achieve a higher level of integration follow all bullets, even at this stage.
The "Toddling" Stage
- undertaking a company-wide digital audit to determine current online activity base
- introducing social media guidelines for employees
- implementing an internal online/social media communications strategy
- introducing an internal company blog
- monitoring (but not reacting to) blogs
The audit is a great idea, and I wonder if it should include the online presences of key employees. I have not seen the issue discussed on too many places, if you're a manager or an officer of the organization, even when your blog or digital assets are personal, there is a different/higher level of accountability as to what you say and disclose.
Many social media guidelines are called policies and become essentially a list of "to don'ts".
The "Walking" Stage
- implementing an external online/social media communications strategy
- implementing social media guidelines for external usage
- ensuring a company presence on Twitter and Facebook
- placing corporate videos on YouTube
- introducing digital and social media activities into communications job descriptions
- introducing an external blog
- training all communications staff in social media
- appointing specialist social media managers
- monitoring online; tracking commentary and identifying advocates and detractors
- getting actively involved in discussions on blogs, forums, and Twitter
- working their way through the strategic implications of user-generated content for their business
- creating an internal version of Wikipedia
It would be very good if at this stage communicators had accomplished so much. I see the last three bullets more as an aspirational goal than a reality in most organizations. I'd be curious to see evidence of this enlightened approach across the board.
What is missing from this list is a horizontal approach — that is coordination with marketing, customer service, product development, HR, operations, etc. A much better proposition to start from crawling.
The "Running" Stage
(very few respondents)
- actively producing bespoke content designed to take advantage of new channels (e.g., written content for blogs, video content for YouTube, etc.) The most successful campaigns are using a multiplicity of channels to link to and promote good content
- appointing senior digital communications director
- engaging in a significant way in online dialogue
- dealing with the company-wide structural implications; for many businesses social media will impact on PR, corporate communications, promotions, customer relations, HR, customer service, product research and innovation, marketing, etc. Most of these operate in silos. The very structure of a business could be an obstacle to their social media strategy
Let's be bold and declare that without senior management buy-in, silos will continue to be a major issue and prevent the company from achieving greater results with social media. Content is another very hard issue to resolve. Communicators are used to writing in the voice of the company from the company's point of view.
Shifting to the customer point of view continues to be a challenge. We'll talk more about that tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I'd love to learn about your reactions to this classification. I see some things missing from each phase.