So, the March issue of PR Week has landed. It dropped through my letterbox just as I fancied another cup of tea. How fortuitous!
I got as far as the ‘People Moves’ pages and nearly spat my tea out – I was so surprised, nay astonished, that someone was leaving a Head of Social role and moving to an agency, a rather large agency, to ‘spearhead their social media offering’. Seriously?
My astonishment does not relate to the person, their specific job move, or agency as I do not know the person, their reputation, their work, or have ever worked for or with the agency. It relates to the fact that social media is still being singled out when it comes to senior positions.
Social media has been around for a long time now – even though it is a relative baby in comparison to other tactics – so why is it still being singled out at Director/Heads of level? When it was new and not many understood what it was or could do, perhaps, but surely not now.
With my attention grabbed, I turned to the magazine’s job pages and there, slap bang in the middle of the right hand page, is an advert for a vacancy at a PR agency for a … yep … Head of Social Media. The description says the role will ensure “social media strategy for clients is delivered to the highest standard”. My heart sank. A search on the Guardian jobs website for ‘social media’ then found three senior-level vacancies on the first two pages and my heart sank even further.
- Social Media Director (Board level, PR Agency) – to sit alongside the Head of Digital to build and develop a new business unit.
- Head of Social Media (in-house) – to spearhead social media activity across all social channels and put social media strategies in place
- Social Media Director / Head of Social Media (European campaigns) – to oversee the social media output for prestigious brands at a strategic level.
The boundaries between each PR/Marketing discipline are getting increasingly fuzzy with many overlaps. As practitioners, we know we need to reach audiences in a number of different ways to grab their attention and social media as a generic term is just one of the ways we use to engage/interact with audiences. I do not want you to think I am trivialising the role that social media plays in campaigns – I am an advocate of social media and include its use in many of my own campaigns. I am questioning the need for specialist Directors / Heads of, and separate business units (unless they are standalone companies from an agency, rather than an internal team with a grand name), in a day and age of campaigns that are increasingly more integrated as a matter of course.
PR needs to move on from silos and work across disciplines, integrating them for the greater good. Social media is here to stay and practitioners need to realise and understand that social media is part of an overarching PR/Marketing strategy and NOT an isolated element. Sure, social media activity will warrant its own strategy, but as a sub-level of the overall campaign strategy, alongside individual strategies for other key tactics.
Why do some agencies and companies still believe there is a need for social media to be singled out at a Director/Heads of level? At a tactical level I can see and value the need for specialists who feed into strategies, but are we not past this at a senior level when the top bods should be considering the wider picture?
I am not naïve. I know my views are just the tip of the iceberg and that this is a much wider issue than I have covered here, but I wanted to open a debate on tactical silos and Directors/Heads of specific tactics. If you are / have recently been a Director/Head of social media, then please add your thoughts below. I am willing to be shot down in flames if the rest of the PR universe still believes social media is a special case and deserves to be singled out with senior/board-level representation.
What do you say?