Futuristic digital man, recovering PR guy, magic beansman, aspiring know-it-all. Chief Strategy Officer at Northern Army. More...

What’s driving your culture change?

Since I started Fat Canary, I’ve talked to a lot of organizations about social media. One of the trends I’ve seen over the past year or so has been an increased need to bring social media into the organization – no surprise there. The interesting thing has been their reason as to WHY they want to bring social media into the organization.

Perhaps we as PR bloggers and social media pundits have sold our point of view too well over the past four or five years – frustrated by those organizations who “just don’t get it,” but more and more, I’m seeing smart and well-intentioned marketers throwing aside their usual focus on results and driving revenue – you know, that pesky stuff that marketing is actually ABOUT – to invest in social media because either a) their higher ups demand it without understanding it, or b) because the see it as “the next big thing.”

Don’t get me wrong – I think social media can drive excellent results for a lot of different types of organizations, assuming their willing to accept the risk and the culture change that it requires, but not every organization is right for social media. Some require major process and staffing changes that they’re just not willing to make for social media. Some already have the right culture without even realizing it, and with the help of their agency, can dive in and make a serious investment.

The question, when it comes to change, is very well articulated by my friend Joe Boughner.

It seems like I’m splitting hairs but I think they’re important hairs to be split. The tools shouldn’t be leading the strategies. The strategies must define the tools. If your business or association isn’t prepared to be conversational or open, stop trying to get them on Twitter.

I’ve spoken to a lot of organizations who wanted a social media strategy, only to find that what they really needed from us was a solid communications strategy. Sometimes, these included social media components, and sometimes they didn’t, but the important thing is that they were led by outcomes, and not tactics.

I think every organization should explore and understand social media, and that most would benefit from taking the intitial steps of at least listening to what’s going on in their space, but not everyone needs a Facebook page, just like not everyone needs a billboard in Times Square. Marketing is all about understanding your consumer, and bringing relevant information to them while enabling them to inform their tribes about your brand or product. Stop thinking in terms of new media and old media, and understand what your consumer really wants from you – then give it to them.


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  1. Great post, Ryan. I just stumbled on it from PR-Squared. Your observation is interesting. Technology (and particularly emerging social media) really are in the driver's seat of business culture changes, more often than not. The most popular question small businesses seem to ask about whether using social media is right for them is "Should I invest the time?", not "Is it really right for me?"– as if having the extra time needed for social media would have automatically answered that question. It's a little like putting a square peg through a round hole and calling it done.

  2. Nice post, Ryan. I've been making the same point with clients for two years now. Social media are a new channel — a decidedly different one, of course, but still just a channel. They only make sense as a channel to pursue if they reach the right people at the right time and can deliver the right message. I suspect the buzz over social media will decline in a short while and calmer, more strategic heads will prevail.

  3. Lauren

    I also enjoyed your post Ryan. I'm new to the blogging world and PR but it seems that most blogs are centred around social media and its new role in PR. I agree, its definitely a new channel to pursue, especially with a generation practically being raised by the internet. Organizations do of course need to first consider their audience and see if the investment in social media is right for their clients. If they choose to go forward with using social media they also need to invest in fully understanding how to use it correctly or a lot of valuable time and money could be wasted. I do not think ,however, that the social media buzz wil die down, if anything it will only get stronger as the next generation becomes working professionals. As for right now I think that using social media still remains an option, but soon enough organizations will not be able to opt out.

  4. Thanks for the post. Assuming that what is good for one is best for all, does little to speak to a client's specific needs and can create a misuse of their funds and resources. I do believe social media is here to stay but that does not make it an immediate fit today for everyone. For some clients, it may never be the right approach and it is important to educate them on how the technology works and what kind of results it can produce for their particular brand/product. As you stated, social media is not blanket policy and we, as public relations professionals, have a responsibility to carefully advise and educate our clients on the benefits and drawbacks of the many social media tools.

  5. Have you noticed that everyone tells everyone else that they need to be on FaceBook? I can’t even begin to count how many people have told me they frequently hear this piece of business advice. It’s like the blind leading the blind. Doing something just because “everyone else is doing it” is the wrong reason. You need to understand the media and what you are using for. There is a common misconception that social media can be a one-size-fits-all solution.