Why the lines are blurring within communication functions

What better way to start an article than with a question:What is a "social media" agency? With rapidly changing technologies, consumer mindsets/needs and marketers’ demands and expectations (in that order) it would be passé to call oneself a social media agency. In fact it could very well be dangerous.

Today, in the digital space, everyone competes with everyone. From ad agencies building digital and social media capabilities to media agencies investing in digital build and social media capabilities and even getting into branded content creation; from PR agencies building social PR capabilities to digital development agencies building digital and social media marketing teams; and creative digital agencies investing in digital media buy capabilities - everyone is in the fray. This coupled with intense fragmentation of the digital industry certainly makes things interesting.

Let’s take a step back to try and understand why this is happening by first trying to understand popular perceptions marketers’ and corporate communications have about social media.

Also called "Social PR" or the earned media specialists, often the practice is perceived to be -and rightly so- as that which creates and manages content on communities across social platforms, addresses consumer issues and queries, does the odd tactical campaign, some influencer outreach and monitors and listens to the buzz in the open digital space. Here is where most PR agencies currently rest.

Interestingly, once started, these "Social PR" activities often see the need to progress into the next logical sphere - that of creating stronger, fuller, more holistic and relevant communication in order to consistently and better engage with the audiences - after all today's digital media consumption is happening across platforms.  

With changing expectations, here’s where the cross over from Social Media to Integrated Digital happens - with Social Media being an integral part of the need. More importantly, this social media integration into digital is being driven by the need for all digital marketing communications /corporate communications efforts to dove-tail back and deliver into the marketing and communication objectives. Earned-Owned-Paid Media integrate and need to work together.

And so the lines are blurring – between social media and digital agencies. And within digital agencies between build focus agencies and digital media buy agencies and digital creative agencies. Simply because consumers, and therefore the marketers, are asking for more and asking for the different.

We have recognized this change and over the last year have evolved from being a social media agency to an integrated digital offering. And we’re competing with everyone in the digital and social media landscape.

With the understanding that today, client's are seeking integrated solutions to their marketing/ communication challenges and that digital and social capabilities are central parts of idea -based and fully - integrated client communications solutions,  MSLGROUP Social Hive has reinforced  the integrated communications solutions offering to clients.

The mantra for success:  strategic storytelling approach helps brands create stronger connections and relationships with the consumer. Through purpose driven, consistent narrative, storytelling engages multiple audiences through diverse media. Through its unique storytelling approach, we transform brands to stories (stories have proven to connect better and stronger with people).

We take an integrated digital solutions approach for our clients:

  • Research and insights: Social listening and monitoring through the use of specialized tools, category analysis and regular reporting, social analytics and insights.
  • Social media marketing: Influencer marketing, contests and activations, stakeholder outreach programmes.
  • Content creation: Branded content, conversation calendars, community engagement.
  • Digital design and build: Facebook apps, mobile apps, social application programming interfaces, websites, microsites, banner ads.
  • Media planning and buying: Target-oriented digital media plans for specific audiences, buying media and release of ads, monitoring performance of ads, Facebook ads, portal ads.
  • Social business: Social customer relationship management, social commerce, social enterprise.
  • Proprietary platforms: People’s Lab, an MSLGROUP proprietary platform for crowdsourcing, analytics and insights; and Social Hive Index, a proprietary social influence measurement tool.

As the market and communications needs evolve PR agencies need to take heed of the changing environment and adapt to newer avatars – quickly enough to match the pace of the changing needs. We welcome this change and the blurring of lines. We are ready for the challenges of the digital tomorrow.

Parveez Modak is Sr. Vice President and Narendra Nag is Vice President of MSLGROUP Social Hive India