Time to Close your Digital Department

22 06 2011

In the last three or four years there has been a rush amongst many PR consultancies to appoint a head of social media or to build a digital team.  If there was a right time to do this (and I doubt it), that time has certainly passed.

Digital PR skills can’t be siloed.  It’s unacceptable for someone who claims to have expertise in PR not to understand the implications of digital channels and the near universal access to on-line media.

Even the terms ‘mainstream’ or ‘conventional’ media have little currency.  The Guardian is mainstream and yet open journalism is now at the heart of its strategy.  How many titles exist solely in a world where dead wood and ink are the only route to readership?

A specialist digital PR team is a cop out which allows people to believe that there are core skills that don’t include an understanding of blogs, social networks, the value of links, PR led SEO, and analytics.   If you still have a digital team get them to train the rest of your people and then merge their activities.  You won’t be asking people to cross the line.  There is no line.



4 responses

22 06 2011
Chris Norton

Interesting post this Rob, not least because I am currently drawing up a detailed strategy for one of my larger agency clients to train and upskill the rest of its wider agency.

I agree that times of changed and PRs now know more and more. Mainly because social media has become more mainstream to use your phrase. However, I am still to be convinced that you can upskill and train people if they aren’t doing it in their day-to-day jobs. As training is great but if people don’t practice what they preach then 3 months later the course is forgotten.

The tools change but communication skills stay the same. I still think there is a role to play for the more specialised practitioners as they have to stay on top of all of the latest gadgets and applications available to make an online campaign work.

A timely post for me though so thanks. Hope you’re well.

22 06 2011
Lee Nugent

Good post, Rob.

I agree that Digital PR skills shouldn’t (and, to be effective, can’t) be siloed. The PRO needs to be able think in a channel-neutral way and we can’t do that if we’re boxed in and digital or social sits elsewhere in the organisation.

However, Chris’ point is pertinent too. There’s definitely a role for specialists who have more ‘technical’ skills and can stay ahead of the curve with regard to deep knowledge of platforms, apps, widgets and the-art-of-what-is-possible. Then again, these ‘specialists’ aren’t necessarily PRs in the traditional sense – but they’re a bloomin’ useful add-on to the core team.

29 06 2011
Presentation on social and digital media at universities to AHRC conference « Kyle Christie's Blog

[…] Time to close your digital department (Rob Brown) […]

15 08 2011

ah the complicated debate, for me it is, do I work in a digital or PR agency..?You are so right the core communication skills are the same it is only the platform which is different. But the way the industry has shaped demands these social media specialists which I use to explain what I do. But there is nothing wrong with this because specialising in something is good, if you can solve a particular problem this way. All titles are essentially labels and we are all communicators. Great blog!

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