Takeaways from the EACD Panel Discussion

Last week I travelled to beautiful Brussels for the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) anniversary reception and panel discussion entitled “The Relationship between PR and Marketing in the time of Social Media”.

As also speaker Prof Dr Peter Kerhof, Associate Professor of Communication Science, VU University Amsterdam and Special Professor of Customer Media, University of Amsterdam, mentioned in his blog, it’s interesting that social media has driven organizational changes at Nestlé, who has created a new unit, hired one social media person, reporting to both Marketing and to PR. Unfortunately the panel discussion was not long enough so that Rudolf Ramsauer, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications Director, Nestlé could not further explain the working of this double reporting structure.

At Nestlé, PR and Marketing used to be different divisions but there are more and more blurry lines between Brand PR and Corporate PR. Consumers want to know the company behind the brand. Both divisions have the same reputation objectives and use social media. These trends are the reason to work more closely together with regard to social media, hence the decision of Nestlé to construct a new unit as described above.

According to Philippe Borremans, Chief Social Media Officer, Van Marcke Group, social media is more demanding in terms of managing. It has an impact on various departments such as PR, Marketing and Customer Service that need to efficiently work together with the ultimate goal of reputation management. Social media should not be a separate department but embedded in a company’s strategy. Philippe reports to the CEO.

It remains to be seen which organizational structure will have the best results. It’s clear however that customers are more and more demanding and are using more and more social media and that Social media is driving organizational changes. I personally believe in a holistic approach, with the ultimate challenge of all departments working with social media collaborating, aligning messages and sharing customer experiences for efficiency purpose in order to protect a company or a brand’s reputation.

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