At a recent Boston Business Journal CFO panel discussion, one panelist commented that his company used to spend $35,000 per month on outsourced PR, but now with social media, companies can do it themselves. There are two things that are arguably issues in that statement. First, and most obviously, if they were spending that sort of budget, were they reaching their objectives and measuring results? If not, then I would agree that was not a good allocation of resources.
But what is most unsettling, is that this was a panel of CFOs talking to other CFOs about an area of expertise that is not their own. And I, not surprisingly, find that statement very misguided. Never in my wildest imagination would I envision a group of marketing and PR executives telling one another that they should be doing their own strategic accounting planning and execution because they have access to Quickbooks. Which is not to say that some very excellent marketing folks may have superb accounting skills, and vice versa; the difference is that each discipline is completely different in nearly every way. What is not different is the fact that to do either one well, one must have solid experience and connections in that field, and must be immersed in the changes and nuances of the discipline that vary nearly every day.
As an executive committee member of the 50-firm Public Relations Global Network, an invitation-only group of independent firms from around the world who work together to serve clients and the industry, I meet and collaborate regularly with my colleagues. Never, in the 11 years that I’ve been involved, have we ever discussed how to eliminate our CFOs or CPAs from our organizations. Rather, they are a valued and important part of our firm’s fabric, and we would not be able to grow and succeed without their expertise and wisdom.
The notion that PR is now a simple DIY proposition because of the advent of social media is ridiculous. Social and digital media is no different than traditional media in that one needs to have a deeply rooted marketing strategy, focused on business goals. Marketing and PR strategy are best created by those who are marketers and PR executives. One needs to know how to not just create content and share content, but to create and manage messages, thought leadership, promotions, announcements, relationships (the list goes on) that tell the company’s story in the right way, at the right time, in all the right places to help the company achieve its goals. That’s not a simple DIY task.
I probably have the ability to do my own taxes, cut my own hair, sew my own clothes and cook my own complicated meals. Obviously, that would be a major time suck, pulling me away from the areas in which I excel and should focus my time. Further, and it’s not a pretty picture, the outcome would be a version of me that is likely audited (for my inexperience in filing, not any wrongdoing!), bedgraggled-looking, and hungry, if not food-poisoned. That would not help me achieve my goals, or, at the very least, would significantly impact my ability to achieve them to their fullest potential.
A DIY marketing and PR program is no different.