The Missed Opportunities: Consulting PR Programs and Social Media

Consulting firms are overlooking some of the basics when it comes to integrating social media into their PR and marketing programs. In my last post, I covered the highlights of a recent study by AMCF and The Bloom Group on consulting firms’ and their buyers’ use of social media. I mentioned that the firms that will use social to gain a competitive marketing edge will require:

  • a greater commitment to listening
  • empowering employees to participate
  • more regimented and strategic  metrics

Let’s examine each of these a little further.

A Greater Commitment to Listening

While many consulting firms are now using social media platforms, the tendency is to use them more as another vehicle for pushing thought leadership vs. listening or engaging. Most are missing the “social” aspect to social media. Truly successful engagement really requires a commitment on an individual level and many respondents reported that consultants aren’t trained or (worse) permitted to use social media sites (more on that in a moment). AMCF’s research found that , nearly one-third of buyers decided not to use a consulting firm after hearing it mentioned negatively by people on social networks (typically, this occurred very early in the RFP process). However, those comments can be tempered by a phone call from a colleague who has used the firm or a phone call from a consultant at the firm.

  • The opportunity for consulting firms: As social budgets increase, firms must commit the time and resources toward monitoring and at least responding reactively to comments. Regardless of whether consultants have the freedom to engage on social outlets, at a bare minimum, companies ought to have an active monitoring program that scans the online universe for mentions of their brand and create a response plan. For helpful tips on establishing a successful social media monitoring program, check out this Mashable article. Notably, LinkedIn is the most frequently cited source of comments about firms – that, in and of itself, is a vast universe of untapped potential for consultants (check out some of the latest updates for improved engagement on LinkedIn here).

Empowering Employees to Participate

Consulting firms have long encouraged consultants to be brand ambassadors – almost all firms in the AMCF study have consultants speak at external conferences and write articles for external and internal publications. But when it comes to social media, things change. Only half of the respondents said consultants were permitted to use public social networks like Twitter and Facebook to talk about the firm, or to post a company blog. Some firms have started to train consultants to use social media, but 44 percent still don’t provide any training and only 36 percent have guidelines for using social media. Consultants can be a difficult group to engage – they are constantly on the road, short on time and often skeptical of the payoff that social media can have on their business.

  • The opportunity for consulting firms: Education is key, but marketers will have a bigger influence if they explain and share stories with consultants about (a) the impact that social media can have on the business (see metrics for more on that) and (b) how they can efficiently use it as an extension of the marketing they are already doing (getting the biggest impact with the smallest effort). I’ve found the most effective way to do this is by testing with some under-the-radar projects, so that you can build up some real-life examples applicable to your specific company that illustrates what social media can do. A great guide on how to empower staff in social media marketing is The NOW Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund.

Using Better Metrics

Most firms are reviewing metrics to assess the success of their social media efforts – but the research found these are largely resigned to viewer counts and basic web analytics. One problem we’ve seen is that a lack of energy, commitment and direction at the leadership level around social media can hold marketers back from defining clear goals and metrics. Don’t let that stop you. In fact, you may be in a better position. Instead, take it as an opportunity to design your own goals.

  • The opportunity for consulting firms: Consulting firms must do a better job of goal-setting and developing a more strategic set of metrics that help them track advancements or re-adjust social media strategies as necessary. If leadership direction is lacking, start with smaller projects, testing and learning as you go to determine the best metrics and course of action for bigger campaigns. Equally as critical is SHARING your results with consultants and leadership. Don’t keep them hidden. Establishing a smart set of metrics is not only important for benchmarking progress, but also for engaging and rallying employees/consultants to be involved in the process.

Everyone is resource constrained and short on time these days. Consulting firms that stand out from the pack will be those who identify a focused set of metrics and empower everyone to make a bigger collective impact.


What missed opportunities do you see?


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Connect with Kellie:

Twitter: @kshe
LinkedIn: Kellie Sheehan