Opinions Social Media Word of Mouth

Social Turf War

Posted by Tom Edwards on May 3rd, 2011 at 10:41 am

During a recent iMedia Summit a simple question was asked to Bryan McCleary, Director of Public Relations, Procter & Gamble, Baby Care. “Who should own social strategy?” Brian’s response was interesting and made a lot of sense. His response was “The Brand and Agency should own the social strategy or the “building of the house” and the PR agency should own the “storytelling” and brand reputation management." 

This is a very telling statement as times have changed and the evolution of social has gone from Social Networking to social media and now to the world of Social Activity. This creates a conundrum for many brands as internal & external turf wars are being waged both in terms of who owns social internally as well as the blurring line between the agency side and PR. 

Going back to Bryan’s statement for a moment, the reason it makes sense is that the agencies both traditional and especially the digital/social are very closely aligned with the marketing objectives of the brand. This extends to acquisition and engagement strategies as well as driving advocacy towards the objectives of the business. Also, agencies bring an element of social creativity in terms of campaign support that is unique and essential to creating a compelling experience beyond the “story telling”. 


Where PR really enables a brand is with the ability to drive the conversations and reputation management while “telling the story” of the brand through compelling content or by activating influencers.

It is very clear though that the objectives for PR & Agencies differ as different expectations, goals and even KPI’s are in place. Ultimately brands that understand the need to define roles & responsibilities and realign with changing consumer behaviors and channels are the ones who will thrive and exceed expectations.

I personally live this model everyday as we have great relationships with the PR companies that we work with on the Hasbro account and many others. There is a clear delineation between our role of “building the house” and the “story telling” and reputation management delivered by PR. By working together instead of competing for turf, this has allowed us to drive progressive programs jointly. 


What we find is that by clearly articulating the roles of the groups both internally and externally and allowing each group to maximize their expertise the end result is a comprehensive social strategy that can truly move the presence of a brand forward.

2 Responses to “Social Turf War”

  1. Hi Tom, I actually asked the question and my feeling is that the "turf war" is more about the lack of integration between all the players in the social space who all own pieces of the social experience. Often these companies are not in the same mother ship and have no incentive to work together, in fact they all want "earned media", who wouldn't! The larger challenge is to step far away from tactics and create a plan that ebbs and flows with paid and earned. It's naïve to think they are siloed.

    • Tom says:

      I respectfully disagree with your last statement. Working with US Fortune 500 and global 50 brands for over a decade such as Intel, Microsoft, American Express, Electronic Arts, Hasbro, Dr. Pepper, etc... and specifically designing social programs over the past 5 years the reality is they are siloed depending on the objectives and there are clear lines of delineation between responsibility. I agree 100% that a comprehensive plan that ebbs and flows based on Paid, Owned and Earned are key in fact that is my day job. But the reality associated with execution is where it falls apart if teams are not aligned. If the BRAND does not establish the ground rules and ownership and success metrics problems will persist thus the external turf wars. Part of what I see daily is a need for restructuring how brands approach social internally as it touches almost every aspect of an organization.

      For example: There are very clear differences in terms of who can drive a fan acquisition strategy which can greatly differ from a content engagement strategy. As I stated I live this model everyday and the results speak for themselves.

Leave a comment