Public Relations becomes Community Relations – Social Media

Public relations agencies will shift from managing clients to managing communities. The community will rely on them to bring them deals, and trial products, and fun campaigns. The PR people will embrace and love their new “client” and do great deals for them with Companies. PR people will enjoy this very much. And they’ll be happier and smilier for it. Heh.

I’ve been working with a PR agency for a while (best part of a year) and one key concept is that Public Relations is about managing multiple Publics. If you have the relationship with the community, and they like and respect you,  it’s tough to turf you out and go with a competitor agency. Build and manage the community and you automatically take on a “public relations manager” role.

How does it work? Well, what if you manage PR for a cosmetic company? Today you do your best to get them articles in women’s magazines, hand out free samples and so on. But tomorrow, the company that manages say, the largest community of women in the right demographic online, becomes a public relations company. Companies approach them and ask if they can talk to the members, and advice on the best way of engaging with them. External PR consultants will know which community managers to approach and how to approach them. It’s going to be easier than managing a whole swathe of bloggers and twitterers and Facebook page owners. But still, an intermediary sets the parameters for discourse:

McCann Worldwide Group (Jobs Problogger)

Seeking Australian mum bloggers to write about what they love to write about

What we need

Firstly, we’d like to apologise: ‘mum bloggers’ isn’t a great term but at least it got your attention.

We’re currently on the lookout for Australian mums (with kids under 10) who can write their socks off. We’re working with a variety of large companies on building great content-rich websites, many of which will focus on mums.

Depending on who puts their hand up, we can work with you in a variety of ways – retainer (eg 10 articles per month), one-off hero posts, and possibly part-time to full-time. We just need to see who’s out there.

What we’re looking for:
– Proven experience in the online content space
– The ability to turn a personal story into a universal lesson
– Headlines that snap readers’ attention
– Content you’ve made online that people have linked to and commented on

It’s pretty broad, really.

There are two types of content we’re looking for:
– Personal stories turned into lessons
– SEO-inspired brilliance

About McCann Sydney

McCann is one of the oldest and biggest advertising businesses in the world. In Sydney, we’ve been furtively re-shaping. We have a whole lot of work coming out in the second half of 2010 that people simply would not expect from us. We’re evolving our approach, processes and culture to create something very different and meaningful.

We’ve kept our heads down this year, focusing on action – not words. And off the back of this focus, we now need to find some likeminded vagabonds to help us on our new trajectory.

How to apply


If you’d like to apply please email with:
– A link to 3-5 examples of your best (and most interacted with) online content
– Your CV and link to a LinkedIn profile if you have one
– Topics you believe you are excellent at writing about
– Your knowledge of search engine optimisation (rate yourself out of 10)
– What sort of work situation you’d be looking for from us (freelance, part-time etc)

Posted on: 06/21

See what they are doing? Clever clogs.

As a community manager you ARE the public relations manager. And you should send packing any PR people who try to run a campaign on your community without your consent. do a brilliant job of sending any interlopers off – including politicians and their spin. (s)He who has the relationship, wins. Twas ever thus.

Hat Tip: Duncan Riley who tweeted it.

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  1. This is an excellent point…all agencies should be striving to achieve this

  2. Very interesting point, Lauren! We have just recently created the Aussie Mummy Bloggers site. Obviously, the community is fairly new and we’re still finding our way around it. I see this as a positive step in finally recognising the power and influence of the Mum Bloggers in Australia. I say bring it on.

  3. Laurel

    I agree with your point although I’d say that the role of the community manager isn’t purely about PR. For some businesses, the community manager may end up as the most insightful person in the company and be able to offer help internally and externally across every business/relevant customer need. Even broader societal help (imagine the community managers with the biggest communities getting together to do collaborate on some real social stuff).

    As you know, I’m a big believer in communities – from a personal and business perspective. The people we’re recruiting from the post you’ve cited above will get paid to write about their own experiences in life (nothing to do with our clients’ products). Their names will be put to it. On some websites we’ll even link to their existing blogs so they get traffic. We’ll try to do it in as ethical way possible – I’m always up for discussion and scepticism. I try to lead a values-based business life.

    Anyway… I know you haven’t deconstructed what we’re doing but I wanted to put my POV out there in case it happens in the comments anyway 🙂


    1. On one level “no of course not, community management is so much more than PR” yet on another level “PR is so much more than PR”.
      By that I mean that the future Public Relations professional will be responsible for Corporate Social Karma (ask Nestle what that means :P), Corporate Carbon Credits & Environment, Corporate Community Management, and so on and so forth.

      I do believe that the community manager that say manages an art community or a health/fitness community or a fashion community, will be inundated with requests to ask members to go to events, to try new products, and to advertise to their community. The smart ones will work with their community as their client and act as a mediator. Ignoring all such requests will mean more resources going to a competitor community so that’s not viable.

      I think Nuffnang is closing in on a good approximation of how PR will be in the future (PR as a function of Marketing in this case).
      Probably will get a different title to distinguish it from PR today tho…

  4. Interesting point. While this works well in Australia, what we’re seeing in a place like India is slightly different. Community management is still not a separate domain and is owned by PR and advertising agencies, at least as of now. What happens is simple – the agencies create owned media properties (communities, not necessarily microsites) and run them…and build them, from scratch.

    Obviously, advertising agencies do it more from a time-bound, campaign perspective, while PR agencies aim for the long term. The PR agencies are also slightly better equipped to handle and generate content given the fact that they know the client’s plans and progress inside out (usually).

    So, in such cases, it is the PR agency that owns the community management function and the client usually depends on the PR agency to continue managing it for them – the more unique the tone and content they create, the more difficult it is to shift to another agency/community manager. The only difference here is that the PR agency manages it ‘as the client’, without getting the agency name out in the open so that people believe it is the brand that is interacting with them, which is true indeed, since every query and comment is shared with the client for responses/updates, wherever necessary. Think of it as the questionnaire a journalist sends – we, as the agency, create draft responses based on our understanding of the client, and get it approved by the client and send it to the journalist. Does the journalist know that we created the draft? Possibly…but does he care? May be not, since he knows we’re the agency and we’d have got it approved by the client. The same process if used for the community management part too.

    Many PR agencies in India own their client communities and the smarter ones know that the more vocal, active and engaging they build the communities, the more difficult it is going to be for the client to sack them, for whatever reason. In a way, this helps agencies to ‘be the client’! I had written about ‘being the client’ in a post sometime back –


    1. Interesting. Can I clarify something? #1 Does the PR agency run say “the wine” community and wineries come to the PR agency to run a campaign? Or #2 does the winery pay the PR agency to create a branded microcommunity and other wineries don’t get to play?
      Because I was really thinking of #1 – PR to build the community (“public” or “audience”) then use commercial clients to sponsor events and campaigns. If you go with strategy #2, the client may decided to swap PR agencies, and take the community with them to the new agency booting out the first one. See the difference?

      1. You’re right – what agencies are building is brand-specific communities, not category-specific communities. And it does give a good idea on where we should be looking at – brand-agnostic, category specific communities, that, if agencies build and own, that could be a way to get brands to support for specific purposes, within relevance.

        On the other hand, community management is at such a nascent stage in India, that a well managed community by an agency means the agency is unlikely to be sacked. There is something unique each community manager (from the agency) brings – in terms of sense of humor, knowledge, tone of interaction, that the brand may find it difficult to replicate or replace.

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