‘PR News’ talks to Pepsi exec about social media

From PR News comes this Q&A on public relations and social media. To comment: larry@larrylitwin.com

PR News Q&A With Bonin Bough: Will PR
Miss Out on Social Media?

Bonin Bough

Successful social media
engagement is all about relationship-building and smart, focused communications
tactics—traditionally the domain of public relations professionals. In this
Q&A, Bonin Bough, global head of digital for PepsiCo, shares his insights
into why PR professionals must integrate social media into their broader
communications. He will expand on this theme in his keynote address,
“Digital Fitness: A Matter of Survival for PR Professionals,” at PR News’ Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco.


PR News: Does the rise of the social Web represent an opportunity for PR
professionals to reposition themselves within corporate and nonprofit

Bonin Bough: Yes, I 100% believe that. I grew up in digital marketing
shops running digital media and have performed every role. My first agency was
a digital production practice within a PR firm, and the majority of our clients
were strictly digital, while others were shared with the PR team. These agency
of record engagements were big clients such as Kellogg’s, Novartis and Citi.
The second group I ran was a bit more integrated with the broader
communications team. So I have seen it from the inside, and I can tell you that
the core skills of communicators—storytelling, authentic communications and the
art of persuasion—are critically important.

At the same time, I often feel communications agencies and teams confine
themselves to a specific segment within social. They don’t necessarily take the
opportunity to lead. PR agencies are not adapting quickly enough, they are not
thinking broadly enough, they do not understand the stakes. Social media
success depends on relationship building and genuine, sustained authentic
engagement—the core competencies that PR is built on. But it also requires a
deep understanding of consumers and media. It is not too late for PR to capture
the massive opportunities in social media, but the industry needs to kick into
high gear right now.

As communications
experts, [we] have a right to lead strategy in digital and build the
relationships while delivering messaging, but oftentimes we fall short because
we don’t know the tools and have the measurement capabilities. Too often we view
“social media” as a discrete practice or discipline when in fact digital media
has changed every facet of marketing communications.

PR News: What is at stake if communicators don’t seize this moment?


Bough: Social media used to be lumped in with larger communications
programs, but more and more of that budget is being taken by specialty
agencies. Clients are starting to recognize—before the agencies, in many
cases—that social media requires particular expertise and know-how. If
conventional PR outfits don’t offer that, they will get it from new,
specialized players. Already this is happening with the huge growth of social
media agencies. That was their lunch. Digital did it to ad shops, so history is
a good predictor of the future. Again, it isn’t too late to win that confidence
(and business) back, but if communicators don’t seize the moment, the fastest
growing piece of communications’ budgets is going to slip out of reach.

PR News: How can communicators best prove the need for investment in social
media activity to top executives?

Bough: If you are faced with a situation in which a client wants you to
justify social media as part of a communications program, you really might as
well walk out the door. Having worked on the agency side for many years, I know
that isn’t realistic, but the point is that by now the importance of these
platforms should be self-evident. If an executive doesn’t believe that, tell
her to ask her neighbors where they go to see pictures of their kids, or who
broke the news of the death of Osama bin Laden or [about] the technology that
fostered the organizations behind the Egyptian revolution.

PR News: What do you hope attendees will take away from your keynote
presentation on August 9?

Bough: In a word? Fear…just kidding. Perhaps attendees will feel, at
least, urgency. I want people in this industry to be scared enough to change.

Attend PR News’ Facebook Conference on August 9 in San Francisco and learn more from
digital leaders like Bonin Bough