Arun Sudhaman 27 Mar 2011 // 6:08PM GMT
I am reasonably convinced that, by now, there are almost as many social media research studies as there are social media gurus. And that is a lot. Every now and then, though, one survey catches the eye; this time it is new research from Bite and Econsultancy, exploring how corporations are responding to the “changing digital landscape.” Whilst the study only polls 50 in-house communications executives, it has the advantage of conducting in-depth conversations with these respondents, who are based across North America, Europe and Asia. The findings do not so much break new ground as crystallize existing impressions: Senior comms professionals want to upgrade their content creation abilities, reorganize marketing functions, and revamp their agency relationships. Organisations that were interviewed for the report include American Airlines, Bank of America, AT&T, HP, Microsoft, Nike, P&G, Tesco and Unilever. Much of it investigates the concerns that are being felt by companies trying to realign their systems and culture to meet the wide-ranging influence of social media. This is fertile ground for exploration, as evidenced by this Holmes Report analysis published earlier this month, which highlighted the internal competition for ‘ownership’ of social media. Bite’s ‘Many Voices, One Message’ report finds that the most common approach is an organic one, with “individual social media efforts springing up wherever they have a champion and operating independently until the organization perceives the need to impose structure.” As digital media knocks down the walls between PR and marketing, the study notes that content creation is taking centre stage. The “single greatest need” expressed by respondents was for a “better capability in creating content.” It also finds that PR is getting drawn into the world of direct marketing, thanks to the importance of merging databases and segmenting consumers and influencers. Those companies that are thriving in the new environment appear to share three traits, which don’t appear dramatically different from the criteria for success in the “old” landscape. Companies should possess a sound understanding of their corporate values; comms strategy that is practical and able to prioritize; and, policies that free employees within a defined structure. The report also touches on the role of agencies, finding a split of opinion in client-side attitudes. “There are those that feel their agency is driving innovation and those just see them as paying lip service to a new practice in social media that isn‟t really an area of expertise or even investment.” Many respondents see advertising agencies as “less likely to prove themselves as guides in the new world of marketing communications”. That is encouraging news for PR firms, which are “perceived to have expertise other agencies lack in conveying ideas and factual content, and in viewing communications strategy with a long term view to building relationships.” The report can be downloaded from www.econsultancy.com or www.bitecommunications.com. Also, check out the incomparable Tom Berry’s video explaining the findings.