Catching up with a backlog of PR Week magazines over the weekend, I read a 22 May article, Comms chief face web bans. It revealed the results of a small survey of 100 in-house PR and marketing professionals in firms spending at least £1m on marketing per year:
“Many senior communications professionals are unable to monitor their brands on social networking sites because their companies block access to Facebook and Twitter.”
This underlines something I have noted before (eg: in Should AEC businesses use Facebook?): blanket bans on social media sites may also prevent corporate communications people from making effective use of the medium (as well as causing some resentment among employees and impacting on recruitment/retention). As McCann Erickson’s Joanna Randall says in the article:
“If as a communications professional you can’t see what’s being said about your brand, that’s quite tough. Communication is about creating word of mouth and a brand profile.”
What worries me particularly about this survey is that it reveals a blinkered approach to social media within businesses which are apparently switched on to the importance of PR and marketing (or at least were spending substantial sums on their communications).
Firms in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) and property sectors are in a double bind here. Many don’t appreciate the importance of continuing investment in marketing communications, and are also being hit badly by the current recession (I blogged about this last week on ExtranetEvolution.com); faced with making staff cutbacks and/or cutting salaries, marketing spend is always likely to suffer.
But prudent investment – at least of time, if not money – in social media, and a relaxation of ICT constraints (but with updated corporate policies on internet access and use of ICT systems, and/or guidance on appropriate use of social media), could open new channels of two-way communication, help create positive “word of mouse” recommendations and help build and maintain brand awareness.
It is tempting, too, to make parallels between such constraints and limits imposed by businesses on access to email or to the worldwide web when these first emerged during the 1980s and 1990s as potential business tools. Such policies proved to be short-sighted then and I think may yet prove to equally short-sighted today.