Wednesday, February 17

Integrating Communication: Communication-Driven Social Media


Something happens when you integrate strategic communication into organizational communication. Public relations is set free to do what it does best. Advertising is set free to do what it does best. And communication becomes more fluid between the various departments.

That is not to say that a communication-driven social media program is the end all to integrating social communication. Like the public relations-driven and advertising-driven models shared earlier, models tend to be the beginning of developing an integrated communication program and not the end. This is one solution among dozens.

A Communication-Driven Social Media Model

The above illustration (larger version here) represents what a strategic communication-driven communication plan might look as it relates to social media. In this model, advertising manages advertising functions and public relations manages public relations functions. Social media is managed by a corporate communication department (or a similar department), with support from advertising and public relations. For simplicity, we've broken it down into primary functions for each. Shared functions are noted, but not broken out this time.

Communication.

• Maintain, manage, and promote the organization's blog or two-way communication assets on a Web site. This would also include market intelligence (which is shared with the advertising and public relations team), but primarily consists of content development and content distribution that adds value for customers. While blogs are presentation oriented, they do provide for two-way communication.

• Maintain, manage, and develop the organization's social networks. This includes online programs and information sharing that nurtures true engagement and two-way communication in real time. Where advertising plays a role is that most social networks provide vehicles for advertising. If someone doesn't think online ads work, they are either delusional or have bad ads.

• Blogger outreach occurs directly and indirectly as bloggers may source content from the organization's blog or develop relationships with the social media team via any number of social networks. Advertising supports this effort with media buys based on recommendations form the social media team. Public relations supports this effort as part of its media relations component.

• There are some additional responsibilities, including: managing internal communication (with support from human resources), working with executive team members and marketing in development of a core message system or strategic communication plan, assisting executives who choose to be part of the external communication equation, and listening.

Public Relations.

• Managing media relations, which includes press releases, interview pitches, and demonstrations. The function is designed to generate increased exposure. It's mostly one-way communication with journalists vetting information, tailoring content to meet the needs of their readers, and arranging for opinion-editorial pieces.

• Public outreach, which includes programs and communication materials for special publics (e.g., associations, special interest groups, unions, etc.) as well as direct-to-public communication and/or publicity. It's mostly one-way communication, with group leaders providing some two-way communication to specific members.

• Blogger outreach, which includes adding popular bloggers within the media relations mix. Or, it could include bloggers who have been referred by the corporate communication team because they have special needs that are similar to journalists (such as requesting specific interviews, etc.). Public relations can also track cross-over professionals: journalists who blog and bloggers who accept freelance assignments.

• Bringing public relations back to one of its core functions would certainly be an asset. Since public relations is not strapped with the daily operations of real-time communication, it could invest more time strengthening relationships between the organization and various publics by researching trends in the environments where the company operates. There is simply not enough of this work being done at some firms.

Advertising.

• While Web sites are sometimes lumped into online mass media categories, the online environment has changed. One-dimensional, one-way static communication can only exist as an option for the most passive visitors. Social media can help make them consumer functional, but some elements clearly fall within the expertise of advertising as mentioned before.

• Likewise, social networks do not exist in a vacuum. They work better with mass media support, targeted advertising, and communication supplements that span audio, video, and other components. Such support can mean the difference between staffing a "voice" on a Twitter (like Southwest Air seemed to have done given its Silent Bob crisis) and communicating with the public and the organization in such a way that a bad policy can change.

• Managing traditional mass communication, which includes collateral, print, and broadcast. As long as there is mass media, even if it continues to serves smaller niches, the functions remain the same. What is different is that all of this communication has the additional role of helping consumers find two-way communication portals. There are also new distribution points online.

• Promotions, which include direct response campaigns, guerilla marketing, and special events (sometimes managed by public relations), post-purchase communication is managed by the team. Sure, some is interruption based. But, as noted before, interruption-based communication is likely to continue as long as people respond to it.

Model Summation.

In summation, this model represents an approach to communication that delivers maximum impact with minimal means. It is designed to bring the organization and (optionally) its leadership closer to the public. It considers all publics, including internal stakeholders and draws on support from human resources.

The end result of an integrated strategy allows corporate communication to directly communicate with internal and external publics within the context of an organization's mission, vision, and values. At the same time, it creates a two-way communication loop that expedites solutions when the communication is not aligned with delivery of the product or service.

As with all of the integrated models we've shared, it helps establish consistent communication, multiple distribution points, multiple points of verification and validation, and more two-way communication outlets with the public. It also empowers employees (without obligation) to feel informed enough about the company that they can answer questions within their individual personal networks.

Do keep in mind that social media fits differently for different companies. In this model, social media could maintain autonomous distinction and report to corporate communication just as easily as being performed by it, provided it doesn't create an unnecessary layer or continue to nurture silos (departments that operate with little interaction).

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