In the wonderful evolving world of communications, I continue to bump into the question of “Where do PR and Social Media report to?”.

Is there an ideal reporting structure ? Hmmm…

It is obvious to me that there are many sides to this question or debate. Marketers will tend to think that PR should be reporting into Marketing, given that it so tightly connected to all that is marketing. Communications folks tend to believe that PR is worthy of its own department and oversight. Corporate Affairs or Public Affairs folk tend to believe that communications is something that is best housed in their groups.  CEO’s tend to take guidance from those of influence within their organizations at the management team table. In that regard the communicators may even been affected by a strong Human Resources lead that sees communications as a critical plank in communicating with employees internally.

Marketing ?

If the company is one that is heavily brand oriented with little or no corporate work, I might be convinced of having PR and communications report into Marketing. However – beware of the often overlooked crisis or corporate communications situation that must be managed from a corporate voice and perspective rather than a marketer’s thinking. I have also seen companies who have chosen to put PR and Social Media into the marketing structure – while maintaining a separate group or individual to look after the strictly corporate mandate of corporate reputation, annual general meetings, support for investor relations on quarterly reporting, support for employee communications. What’s nice about PR and Social being “marketing public relations” is that it sits next to the decision makers in brand and has access to the marketing budgets. When sitting over in Corporate Affairs, there is a constant pitch scenario to be included in the brand’s brainstorming and plan development. Sitting inside marketing creates stronger brand alignment.

Public Affairs ?

I do strong believe in public affairs or corporate affairs as a department or function within a consumer or packaged goods company. There will always be corporate reputation to be handled and managed. There will be “situations” (not to call them crisis…but stuff will happen) that needs to be managed from a trained corporate perspective. There will even be those situations that arise over in marketing that actually will require the “corporate perspective” on how to deal with communications. It will be over and above what the marketing PR lead might have built for the purer marketing story.

Management Table ?

Another persisting challenge for the communications and PR folks in an organization is to have access to the most senior influencers in the organization. This can be complicated by reporting structure. How many times have you heard about PR being called at the eleventh hour?  How many times have PR folks complained that “if I 0nly had been brought in at concept…I would have been able to have done a much more thorough job”. I was fortunate in my career at Molson Coors to have sat at the management table. I was also fortunate over the years to have had terrific CEO’s that “got” PR and would ensure that I had been engaged on issues and opportunities that were arising. My point here is, the actually “seat” at the table is less important. The real need is access to the most senior folks. This access allows you to be briefed, be respected and to provide the support to the organization that communicators are trained to provide. Don’t sweat the politics of having the seat or not…make sure that you have the access and respect to be called upon and engaged when you as a communicator know you need to be involved.

Securing Budget ?

Every business is constrained today. What was traditional business continues to be challenged by on line platforms and competition and the “buy local” movement continues to grow. Social media and word of mouth marketing help get brands closer to consumers. Resources for communicators need to be allocated and protected to ensure that this high touch with consumers and stakeholders can be maintained. Set aside budget for managing and building corporate reputation. It is important for your business to be conducting media relations, social media monitoring, and stakeholder outreach. PR for brand initiatives needs to be budgeted accordingly…do not scrimp ! Flag a contingency for situations that may arise and be willing to fund your social and PR teams appropriately in the moment to mitigate reputational damage.

In summary…

So…where do PR and Social Media report to ? Reporting structure will depend on needs of the organization. Have communicators report where they will have the most benefit “in the moment” for the organization. Support your communicators with appropriate budget. Give them access to the senior most decision makers so that they are aware of issues and opportunities that are the horizon so that they can support the organization and brand in it’s critical time of need.

A communications team that knows it is respected, valued, supported and resourced in an organization will truly make a difference. Reporting structure won’t get in the way of making things happen. @FergDevins  @DevinsNetwork