Agencies Should Require Publicists to Attend a Social Media ‘Hell Week’

While most publicists understand the importance of educating themselves on all things social media, there is still a large number of professionals that do not have that same mentality. I can’t tell you that why that’s the case, perhaps it’s the new school versus old school (no pun intended) way of thinking, but getting employees up to speed on social media should be just as important to an agency as it is keeping current clients happy and pursuing new business.

So realistically, what can agencies do? Can they force employees to read books on SM? Give assignments to follow Chris Brogan’s blog or have them monitor Robert Scoble’s tweets? Assign quarterly reports on which brands have the best SM campaigns? I certainly don’t run my own agency and I haven’t done the research on what effects this type of program might have on company morale, but my short answer to these questions is a resounding YES … current and future employees should be required to do all of these things, and more. The positives of putting your staff through a ‘Hell Week’ type of SM program far outweighs the negatives, in my opinion.

Here’s a short list of some of the reasons (just that I have to do this goes to show that not everyone is on-board with SM) why becoming engaged in SM is necessary for every student and PR professional:

  1. Regardless of how big or small a client may be, they can’t afford (financially and otherwise) to not be educated on the types of SM opportunities available
  2. It doesn’t matter if the company you represent is B2B, consumer, financial, tech, healthcare, or any other industry you can think of. From monitoring tools to lists of who are the most influential people in their respective industry, they should all have SM built into their program.
  3. Every member of a client team should be able to provide appropriate counsel when a client asks a question about whether or not they should have a Twitter handle, Facebook page, LinkedIn group, corporate blog, etc. At the very least, you should be able to intelligently respond to them even if you don’t have an answer at that time.
  4. When looking for your next job or just graduating from college, HR and senior-level executives are definitely going to be looking for SM experience on your resume.
  5. Just like when publicists started using e-mail, SM is here to stay

We know that not every publicist is going to take the initiative to learn on their own time, so by creating the type of environment where staff can become better educated on new communications tools/platforms/networks, agencies can go a long way in making its employees more successful, which will in turn make the agency a more profitable, enjoyable workplace.

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  • Great post Andrew! My very first job out of college was with a manufacturing company that made hand held lawn sprayers. Everyone in the company, from the CEO on down, had to spend one week in training. You spent one day of that week in each department – production, parts, orders, billing and sales. Working out in the production area was tough (it was july and there was no AC 0 talk about hot!), I really learned an appreciation for how everything was put together. In addition, it made me a much better sales person. I could talk about every part of that sprayer.

    I think your hell week concept is the same thing and would be extremely valuable for all new professionals. I'd broaden the hell week to more than just SM though – mock press conferences, press packets, etc, etc. Every company has a different way of doing things and it's great for a new employee to see how the process works.

  • worob

    Thanks, Brenda!

    The reason I focused this more on SM vs. PR as a whole is because I've found that there are a lot of publicists, across-the-board, that don't get SM, don't understand it, don't think it applies to all of their clients, etc.

    PR at Sunrise blog –

  • beccameyers

    How fun would that weekend be?! I'll plan it! I got nothing to do…

  • worob

    It's go time!

  • James

    Why do people treat social media like rocket science? It isn't that hard…really.

    Yes, it takes a lot of time. Yes, there are strategies. Yes, there are some tools to consider using or learn about.

    But it isn't that hard. It really isn't.

    And yes, I've developed strategies and implemented many highly successful campaigns.

    In fact, I bet more people can do social media and do it successfully than MANY other PR/marketing tasks that are relevant. Just look at how many PR/marketing people have their own personal successful social media circle…tens of thousands.

    The REAL best way to learn is to DO it, not to read endlessly about it or discuss it or attend programs (although some of those help, but many are rehashing THE SAME stuff over and over)…like this blog post.

  • Well, there's a big different between PR people and publicists. But, it's not worth the space to bring up that discussion.

    At the end of the day, both need to be billable and the stuff you recommend isn't billable.

    Yes, education is important but there should be internal educational channels. And while Scoble and Brogan are appropriate for some channels, for publicists they are probably the wrong venues to read.

  • worob

    I've met a ton of publicists that simply 'do not get it' – which is the basis of my post. If they aren't going to take the time to DO it, as you say, then they need to be forced to, IMO, otherwise they will suffer in the long run and so will their clients

  • worob

    Several questions:

    You don't think reading Brogan or Scoble's writings help PR professionals?

    Is everything really about things being billable?

    Do you really think every employee is going to do/learn this on their own time?

    By investing in a mandatory SM orientiation program for all employees, you are strengthening your workforce. You can't argue that point.

  • Several answers:

    Scoble is very tech oriented, and Brogan writes about the tools. So, no, not every PR professional, as I stated originally. For Publicists, not sure what the value would be. I love Scoble, known him for years, but I'm talking verticals instead of broad brush strokes over PR and publicity.

    At large agencies, yes, it is about billability. You have percentages you need to meet. But that is also why large agencies have education programs that go into development, and are OK as non-billable. Your last statement is my point, though. Internal education rather than an SM Hell Week. Continuing education is key in any industry.

    Doing the stuff on your own during work hours, though, tends not to be billable. And, those that want to get ahead will do such things on their own time.

  • worob

    Let me first say that I'm loving this conversation – nothing better than discussing a topic with someone that is just as passionate as I am.

    I just used Brogan/Scoble as examples, but my point is that many PR professionals can't even name one PR blog, and that's a problem even if you aren't looking to get ahead.

    I'd like to think that large agencies still have the financial flexibility to institute such a program (one week, two days, even just a one-day orientation) that can better prepare staff and educate them. I think we both agree that it's all about education.

    Appreciate your comments

  • Neither Brogan nor Scoble are PR blogs, though. Scoble is a technology
    blogger, and Brogan writes about the tools in social media.

    And if you want PR blogs, there are plenty out there that talk more than
    just about the tools, but actually using the tools in real world PR

    Large agencies ARE instituting education programs, though. And smaller
    agencies are as well. But reading the stuff does not help much with the real
    strategies and tactics needed. It's reading in a vacuum.

  • worob

    I realize they aren't PR blogs, but don't they discuss SM issues that ARE relevant to PR folks?

    Agencies are instituting educational programs, yes, but far and wide they are not mandatory. I'm saying they should be.

  • I think your ideas are great Andrew. It's sad to me that there are PR people out there that don't 'get' that social media mastery is a part of them doing their job well. And it's not an 'age' thing. Far from it. I've met 70 and 80 year olds who have a better grasp on social outreach than others; I agree with you that it's a mindset. Closed mind = missed opportunities.

  • worob

    Thank you, Rochelle! I follow your tweets and definitely appreciate hearing from you!

    PR at Sunrise blog –

  • @paolabrussels

    100% with you on this blog post.
    But if the van video is an intelligence test, looks like I failed. WT? Or did you just insert it to make sure we were paying attention ? (We are)
    Please explain, thanks

  • Not necessarily – it goes back to what type of PR you practice. And the
    education brush you're using is too wide. I know of enough agencies that
    have education programs. And I know of others that don't for political
    and/or business reasons.

  • worob

    We'll agree to disagree 🙂

    Appreciate the comments!

  • worob

    Thanks for the comments!

    The theme of the post centered around 'hell week' so I thought using the scene from “Old School” around pledging/fraternity would be fun