Home > PR and social media > What Role Should A Communications Agency Play In A Client’s Social Media Program?

What Role Should A Communications Agency Play In A Client’s Social Media Program?

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Part three in the four part 4/4/4 Four Communications Issues. Four Perspectives. Four Weeks blog series brings us to – What Role Should A Communications Agency Play In A Client’s Social Media Program?


Honestly, this topic could be career suicide for a PR agency flack that believes social media content needs to be driven by internal resources. This could also be seen as very self-serving for an agency type claiming that an outside resource brings an independent perspective that is required in social media.


Of course there are merits on both sides of the debate and at what level should an agency be involved is certainly open to debate. In fact, earlier in this blogging series we discussed the ethics of ghost blogging and none of us flat out said that it was unethical, yet there was more than one reference to ghost tweeting being a different story.


Not wanting to get too far down the proverbial rat hole of defining exactly what are the elements of a social media program applicable to an outside communications agency and because of limited blogging space, I’m going to answer the question by taking the approach of what would I do if hired to run communications for an organization looking to launch (or fix) its social media program.


It would all start with a KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid…no wait, implementing the KISS approach has been done to death…okay, in keeping with the aging old rock band theme, here is my AC/DC approach to social media.


Ask – Ask questions, gather information and evaluate the current situation.

Consultant – Bring in a consultant. You don’t have to know everything yourself. This doesn’t need to be a high-priced consultant this could be as simple as lunch with a former coworker, but the idea is to get an outside perspective.

Develop – Develop and do it. Create a plan with some measurable goals and implement the the plan.

Confess – After some period of time admit what worked and what needs improvement. This isn’t an exact science. You can’t refine the process unless you are able to candidly confess where the program is falling short.


Okay, maybe the acronym wasn’t perfect, but the point is that even though an agency’s involvement in a social media program seems like a very polarizing issue at the end of the day that decision isn’t a major part of developing a social media plan. If you need the resources, you enlist the help of an outside party, but if you don’t need to you don’t have to – simple. I realize this isn’t very controversial, but that is the difference between talking about things in theory and in practice.


Of course, if you use an outside agency for social media, the AC/DC approach can still work:

Always – Always make the process transparent.

Combine – Combine social media with other communications program. In-house or outsourced, a social media program can’t live and thrive in a silo.

Drive – Drive toward a goal of developing necessary skills in-house. It never needs to be all in-house, but developing in-house skills helps an organization find its true social media voice.

Consistency – Consistently measure and reevaluate. Again, this isn’t an exact science. Social media is and will continue to evolve and so must your program.


Now, see if Steve Farnsworth, Lou Hoffman and Todd Defren agree or disagree…and rock on.

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  1. September 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Great thoughtful post. As a seasoned (read old) PR pro practicing social media engagement, I fall back on my roots that the agency should not be the spokesperson/people for the brand. The best relationships should be built directly between the consumer and the brand.

    However, I agree with you, that that is not always possible due to lack of in house resources.

    By the way, the 4X4 concept is downright genius.

  2. September 26, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Here’s what I think, Paul: The typical organization is ill-prepared to include social media as a tactic, let alone blend it into an existing communications strategy, therefore, as companies make the move from traditional to social, the guidance, depth of knowledge and experience of a PR agency would be valuable (acknowledging of course that not all agencies can offer social media expertise.) If a company can do it in-house and do it well, then I think they should. But right now there is such growth and change, I do not see many organizations – already financially burdened – allocating resources to build, implement, train, monitor and respond to social media initiatives. It’s a full time job to get management buy-in, so you need to hit the ground running when initiatives are put in place.

    Thanks for writing this.
    ~ Jules

    PS. Would you be surprised to find out that my favorite AC/DC song is Money Talks?

  3. September 29, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Hi Paul:
    The answer, of course, is it depends on the company. I believe participating in social media is vital, but a commitment. For some companies the added resources of an outside agency or consultant are the only way to meet that commitment. For others, in-house is fine.

    More important is the aspect of understanding and wanting to engage with external audiences. That takes a particular type of person and company, and no one is served by a “tone deaf” social media person.

    Lastly, I think there’s a subtle takeaway here: the process of participating in social media is iterative. What works this quarter may not work next quarter. The path to success is adaptability.

    As always, great insights, Paul.

    — Kelley

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