How PR and marketing can work together for social programming

At Hub Convene on Monday, Business Wire’s Serena Ehrlich hosted a panel discussion on the evolving role of PR in social programming, as well as how it can work with the marketing department.

Ehlrich, director of social and evolving media at BusinessWire was joined by both Dan Zucker, senior manager of social media at Autodesk and MSL GROUP VP Laura Finlayson for a Q&A conversation on achieving PR goals and business results via social.

“Social media within PR has changed from brands using social media for likes or for brand awareness, to now using social for action,” said Ehrlich. “It now has a part in the overall business goal, resulting in budget changes in PR programming to include paid content and native advertising.”

A large part of the discussion stressed on how PR pros needed to shift away from so much focus on earned content, and get comfortable with paying for it. Paid used to be just a four letter word in PR, but now its apart of the overall strategy,” said Finlayson.

MSLGROUP has seen a mix of paid, earned and owned content with clients said Finlayson, and it was important to have paid media a part of the strategy from the very beginning.  “Help your client to understand that through a strategy that includes paid, you are able to promote your owned content and enable your message,” Finlayson said. “This strategy gives you more leverage as to what is being said and how it’s getting said as opposed to earned media.”  

Zucker spoke about how Autodesk’s social team took advantage of the hype surrounding Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, train design for travelling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in a half hour. Autodesk joined the trending conversation and designed what the the Hyperloop could look like using the Autodesk software. The brand was able to create their content, push through their social channels and use paid strategy, resulting in five trade media hits and two top tier media hits.  Zucker said “It was a really cool example of content coming from the social perspective to help inform earned media perspective.”

Finlayson gave another example of social driving traditional media through MSLGROUP’s Scope Bacon campaign work for April Fool’s Day.  Scope sought to engage with a different audience and generate more brand exposure for their mouthwash with their Scope Bacon joke. “There is a great synergy between social and traditional media,” said Finlayson. (Eds note: That campaign was recently given a Hubbies award for Best Real-Time Marketing Campaign.)

Finlayson said agencies, like MSLGROUP, are challenged with budgets, as social requires a budget that most clients are not willing to pay. She said social media strategies require brand knowledge, market knowledge, understanding of business goals, staff time and are no longer seen as an intern task. 

Zucker said it’s important for social to be brought into the work at the beginning of the campaign, not at the eleventh hour. He told the audience to “be prescriptive and assume nothing.” 

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