The changing value of social
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report
COO & Senior Editor

The changing value of social

Aarti Shah

When I left PR journalism in 2010, all conversations were still very much steeped in social. During my three years in the agency world, I learned what a challenge it could be to persuade clients to put adequate resources into their social channels. But perhaps more profoundly, it became clear that, in many cases, client wariness was rightfully justified. In 2013, it seems social has a tinge of fatigue around it. When reporting for our digital and technology PR forecasts, I was somewhat surprised at how forthcoming people were about this, especially on the client side. For instance, Ken Hong, global communications director at LG Electronics, acknowledged Twitter’s value as a monitoring platform but said it’s become “irrelevant” as  a corporate communications tool, along with Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram. Even Frank Eliason, global social media director at Citi, who is known for his prowess in this area noted that some brands are now backing away from social media. Backing this up is more than just anecdotes. A recent Weber Shandwick study found that only 18% of CEOs at the world’s largest 50 companies use social networking -- only 2% higher than 2010 -- and none have their own blog. And with hazy regulatory implications of social media, there’s good reason why CEOs, especially at large companies, are hesitant to participate. I’m not advocating that social is disappearing, only that the industry’s focus has shifted. These days, it seems agencies are hurrying to build their content teams and the moniker “PR” is increasingly giving way to “integrated communications.” Social is often now seen as a customer service channel or a way to distribute  brand journalism (or content marketing, if you prefer the term). As I transition back into being an industry observer and analyst after actually being a PR practitioner, this is one of many areas that I’ll be watching closely. I will say it’s with a slightly varied lens having been on both sides now.
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