When it comes to social media in comms agencies, clients, directors and staff alike seem to be increasingly looking to the resident expert, the person in the agency who has the knowledge and makes it tick. As a result of this, the agency digital ‘guru’ is emerging, a tag that I suspect is accepted largely reluctantly by those in the role. And it prompts the question, how important is it for a PR agency to have a digital media figurehead?
This week I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with directors at two of the UK’s fastest growing PR agencies. Between them, the two agencies in question were short-listed for no less than 13 CIPR PRide Awards in 2009, winning seven gold or silvers. But what struck me, delighted and excited me about both was their progressive nature and the way they are embracing social media. They’re both shining examples of how the PR industry needs to take the digital issue by the scruff of the neck. Both are carefully considering the social media/digital director role. And, interestingly, both feel the need for a figurehead for their social media offering, someone who will lead the line in front of clients, someone who will train and inspire their staff, and someone who will represent them credibly within the PR industry as a whole.
It would seem that the head of digital job is one that is set to become one of the lynchpins for any PR/comms agency. PRMoment recently questioned whether a single person can take this all on board due to the sheer scope of the role and the skillset – media relations, social media channel knowledge, creativity, technical web knowledge and content generation. It’s something that I also blogged about recently, posing the question as to whether PRs are really up to the social media task. PRMoment concluded that it’s unlikely that one person can lead a digital media team in this way and predicted that the role will become fragmented into a range of different job titles.
I disagree, however. I, for example, may not be an “expert” in search engine optimisation, or html, or indeed social media (who is?!), but I do have a good operational knowledge of all areas and this gives me a very rounded view of digital media that I would hope means that I can devise creative and fully-integrated strategic campaigns that promote, manage reputations and drive website traffic. Furthermore, I have observed a community of like-minded people emerging on Twitter, interacting with one another to share knowledge, insight, ideas and thoughts. People like @AdamVincenzini, @DannyWhatmough, @GemmaWent, Kerry Gaffney (@kerrymg), Katie Colbourne (@volumegroup), Dirk Singer (@dirktherabbit), @LouiseDoherty, @Beth_Carroll and Chris Hall (@chrish10). And these are just the UK-based people. There are plenty more in the States too. (And incidentally, if you’re on Twitter and you aren’t following these people, then do it NOW!)
Each of these people displays the multi-faceted approach that the role necessitates and is a great example of a digital media figurehead, with a high profile of their own and representing their respective agencies extremely well. More than this, however, I feel that this group of people, of which there are more, may well become the leaders of social media in the future. Not necessarily the ‘thought leaders’ who think a lot but do little, but the people at the cutting edge who devise and implement strategies that work. The sharing mentality that this group has adopted means that together we can drive the PR industry forward to take its rightful place as the home of social media marketing. That’s my hope, anyway. And I also hope I’m part of it!
What are your thoughts? Just how important is the digital media figurehead?
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