Rebecca Winchel and Dr. Kenneth Plowman, Communications
As digital media communications continue to grow and become an integral part of organizations’ business strategy, there is a significant gap between traditional strategic communications and the current strategies employed by social media practitioners. In order to address this gap, we wrote a book based upon Wilson and Ogden’s Matrix System for strategic communication planning1 that allows current and future social media practitioners to employ the foundational strategy that has thrived in the PR sector (see Figure 1). This publication also helps traditional PR, marketing and other communication professionals understand and embrace the changes happening in and because of digital communications. We also wrote articles for publication in industry journals under the same project.
Research for this project involved a plethora of both secondary and primary sources. We examined several publications within social media and PR industries, along with data from public opinion polls (ie: Pew, Nielsen, Gallup) and individual brand case studies across social media platforms. We also conducted primary research through an IRB-approved Qualtrics survey, which was created for PR practitioners as well as social media and marketing professionals, as well as individual interviews to gather qualitative responses. These interviews were conducted with several individuals in public relations firms as well as specific corporations in a variety of industries and included a questionnaire protocol in conjunction with the project’s secondary research. Although Dr. Plowman and myself conducted most of our research first hand, we also examined research completed by graduate-level students in Dr. Plowman’s class that was constructed to meet the needs of this project.
We found that although PR and other communications professionals have realized the need to incorporate digital strategies into their campaigns, many struggle with understanding the landscape and reporting social media success in terms of metrics. For example, 57 percent of 622 marketers surveyed cited “poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators” in the top three obstacles to social media marketing adoption2, yet according to another report, only 22 percent of 700 respondents have strategies that tie data collection and analysis back to business objectives.3 Not only was the gap between strategic communications and digital media noticeable throughout all areas of research, we also saw several themes emerge through our interviews with professionals. These themes included a strategic emphasis in social media campaigns, importance placed on consumer conversation, a need to establish proper brand awareness, and a need for solid crisis management in and through digital communications. These themes were universal and prevelant.
These results allowed us to organize chapters using the foundation of successful communication strategy while highlighting how the previously stated themes and analytic/reporting goals could be accomplished on social platforms. Through the use of both successful and unsuccessful case studies, we demonstrated these strategic steps in real-life branding examples to readers for better comprehension.
While we are pleased with the knowledge we have uncovered, analyzed and organized, we have found that this is merely a beginning of changes that must be implemented across communication professions. In order to truly bridge this gap between strategic communications and digital media, professionals must learn these strategies and then be committed to using them in their own industries and firms. Only then can strategic communications catch up with the digital age of online interaction and business.
1Wilson, L. J., & Ogden, J. D. (2014). Strategic communications planning: For effective public relations and marketing (6th ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.
2BtoB. (2012). 2012 B2B social media marketing: A surge in adoption. Retrieved from http://www.btobonline.com/section/researchreports11
3Econsultancy (2012, July). Online measurement and strategy report 2012. Retrieved from http://econsultancy.com/us/reports/online-measurement-and-strategy-report#content