PRII Forum: Should PR Own Social Media?

PRII Forum: Should PR Own Social Media?


  • Eoin Kennedy, founder of social promotion platform Knudger and Chair of the Irish Internet Association’s Social Media Working Group @EoinK


  • Colm Ó Riagáin, Digital Account Director, WHPR @Corlugs
  • Christian Hughes, Communities Manager with Irish International @ChristianHughes
  • Eoin O’Suilleabháin, Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager with Bord Gáis Energy @EoinOS
  • John Ring, Managing Director of internet marketing company RingJohn @RingJohn

PRII Forum: Should PR own social media? Pic via @SamOByrne

I’m just back from the PRII’s first forum of 2013 which in their own words, “… is designed to challenge the view that PR should own social media. Would we all be better served by working together to make the most of our unique skills, or are the stakes so high that the PR world cannot afford anything less than to play top dog?”

The forum opened with a welcome from Niall Quinn, President of the PRII and he handed over to Eoin Kennedy who was chairing the event. Eoin remarked that this is not a new debate, this is a rehashing of a debate that has been taking place for the past few years but that recent C-suite interest in social media has reinvigorated the discussion.

The forum opened with Colm Ó Riagáin making the case for PR having been seen the potential of social media and looked to utilise it from its inception for brands. Christian Hughes stated that although social media may seem new, in reality it is just a new iteration of communication that has existed for millennia. He highlighted his point by stating that caveman “posted” to the wall long before Facebook. Christian affirmed that if the question of social media ownership was to be taken literally, it would be an injustice to clients.

Eoin O’Suilleabháin who works in house with Bord Gáis managing their social media and digital marketing believes that although there is a bit of a turf war going on right now between PR, digital and SEO agencies context and content sit naturally with the PR agency.  Ultimately though he believes that whoever is closest to the subject matter should manage it on social media.

According to John Ring from Ring John, “SEO is eating PR’s lunch”. He cited an example of a recent client who had secured a very high profile interview for their CEO in the Financial Times. The article was great but it only lasted for one day and there was no reference to the company website. John believed that if there was a reference to the article on the company site it would have helped the company get longer term impact in terms of SEO. John’s point of view was that getting the interview is great but he is not seeing the impact online activity has offline and most PR people don’t join the dots in that way. He mentioned viewpoints he has seen from clients wondering why they would want to be on Twitter if their audience are not there. His response was that the audience may not be there but that journalists are.

There was a very robust question and answer session from the floor with some great questions asked. I’ve flagged one here that Miriam O’Neill, Press Officer with AA asked about the current hot topic of social media measurement and any tools that the panel would suggest:

EOS: Different campaigns have different KPIs, if you have solid KPIs then these should dictate your measurement. Sites that we use: Tweetreach, Radian 6.

CH:  I recently sat down with students and one of the things around SM strategy is that there should be specific business objectives. KPIs will change depending on the content. Everything should be leading to specific objectives. What is 5000 fans Facebook achieving? It may fit into KPI around awareness but you should always be asking why. In terms of monitoring tools; Radian 6, Crimson Hexagon are all fantastic but all these do the same thing in terms of automating data. What you need is someone with insight and intelligence to interrogate and interpret data.

COR: Diagnostic metrics don’t really answer anything. Clients want more results and measurement is key. I recently spoke with John Bell, global head of Social@Ogilvy who said that 10-15% of budget should be allocated to measurement. It is a big discussion right now and whoever ignores it will be left behind.

CH: On the flip side, if we make take media channels e.g.  TV, newspaper, how is a placement there measured? It’s not really. All that is measured is views. It’s eyes. I would like to see that the discussion around social media measurement have an impact on traditional media measurement.

COR: Spending money on measurement is win-win because you can see what works and what doesn’t. This creates an opportunity in that once you can confirm if something does work then you can invest more.

The forum closed with Eoin Kennedy asking the panel on why their respective industries should take ownership of social media.

CH: It comes down to content. Marketing/Advertising are at the forefront of creating this content and so there is a natural fit.

EOS: PR is very concerned about managing the brand and afraid of bad things happening so it can be too conservative. I would advocate a cross functional centre of excellence with all partners feeding in.

JR: Content is king and we are really good at getting that content seen.

COR: PR is in a perfect place to manage it. PR focuses on reputation and we have built our industry on defending and improving our clients’ reputation. As the audience moves more online we will manage their reputation online.


2 thoughts on “PRII Forum: Should PR Own Social Media?

  1. I’ve had this very debate with a few people recently and am interested to know what the overall feeling in the room was?

    Do PRs think they should own their clients’ SM?


  2. As you asked this question Eoin Kennedy who chaired it answered over on Twitter strangely! Responding to my tweet than no one owns it and everybody owns it. “Think that was the main consensus that no particular body of professional owns social media.”

    Eoin from Bord Gais advocated what I think is the ideal set up. Having everyone feed into it with their various expertise sure but that ultimately it should be in house.


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