Not every PR plan needs social media

In the rush to hire expensive social media consultants, we’ve forgotten that for some clients traditional PR still leads
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“Social media is the way forward. All campaigns have to be integrated or lead with social. Traditional PR is long gone, how do you expect to win new business with just a traditional offering?”

I have heard this many times. Ever since consultants cottoned on to the fact that social media, otherwise affectionately known as social, is an effective tool to reach people, it has become the darling of the comms mix. PR agencies have invested large sums of money to ensure they have social media experts working for them, to advise them ahead of pitches, client meetings and training sessions.

And for some types of PR, it makes sense. Consumer, tech, charity, food and drink– all these sectors need it to reach the consumers they want to communicate with.

However, I work with clients who are not necessarily consumer-facing. Or if they are trying to reach consumers, it will be through an intermediary. I work with lawyers, accountants and management consultants – people who have to bill X hours per day and are so busy that PR is not a day job for them. Instead, it’s something they know they have to do for the firm, so will tag it on to the beginning or the end of a long day. So it comes as no surprise that what is actually the most traditional method of PR is the most useful and effective for them.

My clients need to reach people who need their services. The quickest and most effective way for that to happen is through the media, specifically traditional media – newspapers, TV and radio. Not Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. A middle-aged, high-net worth businessman is not going to feel compelled to approach a divorce lawyer based on a tweet. More likely it will be following a piece read in FT Weekend covering a change in the law that will affect spouses during divorce, or through a comment piece placed in a title talking about issues affecting high-net worth individuals.

At a previous agency, every pitch I was involved with had a forced social media element to it. It usually followed the same format; we’d suggest undertaking research for a campaign and using Twitter to help disseminate the press releases. I’m not actually entirely sure why, given the people the new business prospect wanted to target would more than likely be sitting in an office reading the FT or The Times. But it became part of every campaign idea. Any campaign idea that was largely social media focused was like a hot potato, because no-one wanted to be the one to have to explain to the potential client (usually a partner in a law firm), why it was appropriate and why they should buy in to, because usually, they were anti-social media.

I’m not saying that social media is completely pointless or irrelevant. Far from it. We all know it works, especially with consumer campaigns. But in a corporate capacity, it only has certain uses, none of which can really be attributed to helping the bottom line, or a partner in a law firms’ reputation to audiences outside their field. It seems like it has to be added in any new business pitch or client planning just to say it’s in there.

So to those who continue to say corporate PR practitioners are behind the times, think twice; we’re hitting the money with the traditional route every single time – we’ve proved that there is no need for social media just for the sake of having it.

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