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How To Get a Job In Social Media: Burson-Marsteller

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We’ve noticed that in the advertising and public relations industries, agencies are increasingly on the lookout for professionals experienced in social media. We can argue the merit of who has social media expertise and who doesn’t later. For now we want to know: what are agencies and their clients looking for in this burgeoning field?

Over the next few days PRNewser and AgencySpy will run interviews with major agencies seeking social media hires. These are not exhaustive interviews, just 10 quick questions aimed at peeling the lid back. Hopefully the questions we asked will help you guide your career path, if social media is part of it. Today we have an interview with Jay Leveton, CEO of Proof Integrated Communications, a subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller.

What are the core skills of the social media staffer?


At the core of any successful social media effort is an ability to engage and interact with communities of interest online. This means listening to the way members of a community engage with each other, determining the relevant content to share with the community, knowing the appropriate level of engagement, identifying yourself and whom you represent in a transparent and open way, and understanding the tone to take within a given community. These are the “social” skills needed to be successful in social media.

Across our workforce, we are looking for people who are comfortable in this space and take a personal interest in social media so they can adapt quickly to the introduction of new tools and platforms. Anyone who is going to interact with online communities on behalf of our clients needs to have their own active presence in social media. You can’t talk the talk until you walk the walk.

However, successful social media engagement goes beyond simply having knowledge of the social media tools and key social networks – it requires an ability to understand client issues and opportunities and to think strategically on their behalf as it pertains to social media.

This can be a delicate balancing act between knowing how to use the tools and contributing to communities of interest in a relevant way while tying efforts to measurable business results.

We are also looking for people with skills in analytics and measurement as that is a critically important area in our discussions about social media with clients.

What are the breakdowns of social media titles/roles within the agency – i.e. SAE, AE, VP and so on…

Social media is integrated across the agency – with expertise in every practice and at every level. Providing social media strategy and execution is the responsibility of every client-facing employee. While we have social media experts, titles are generally the same and not called out at Burson-Marsteller.

What did these candidates do to stand out? Any interesting stories of someone “breaking through the noise?”

We think the story of Caitrin O’Sullivan, who works in our public affairs practice, is a great example of someone whose commitment to and use of social media made her stand apart. See her story here.

Where does the top social staffer rank in the agency hierarchy?

Our Chief Digital Strategist Erin Byrne sits on our firm’s executive leadership team, which is known internally as the Business Operations Team. Having a social media expert at the table during board meetings accurately represents our agency’s commitment to counsel for clients in the space.

We also recently added digital marketing and social media pioneer B.L. Ochman to our team, who blogs at www.whatsnextblog.com. B.L. is Managing Director of Emerging Media for Proof Integrated Communications, the digital marketing arm of Burson-Marsteller. She has been helping Fortune 500 companies strategically incorporate new media into their marketing mix since 1996. B.L. also counsels the firm’s senior management on social media trends and strategy.

What are clients looking for in social and what is Burson recommending they do.

Clients ask for a range of products and services ranging from strategy and training to creative campaigns and execution. For example, we worked with a Fortune 500 company to develop Social Media Guidelines for its stakeholders, followed by a comprehensive social media training program.

Both of these initiatives have been rolled out to that company’s stakeholders to help them listen to customers so as to serve them better. From a creative perspective, our responsibilities range from helping clients design and manage profiles to creating applications that add value to key stakeholder groups.

Sometimes this involves high-profile social networks like Twitter or Facebook and other times it involves helping clients define their presence on niche sites. This was the case for Transitions Optical where we created a presence on BeWell.com, the first expert-guided social network that connects patients with superstar doctors.

Still, many of our clients are just starting to integrate social media into their overall communications strategy. Some just want to know where and how to begin.

Do you plan to seek social media AOR status with clients?

We think there are plenty of opportunities to work with our clients in many capacities around social media. We are happy to let our clients define the nature of our engagements with them.

How many social media staff are you hiring in total?

We are planning several hires in the near-term ranging from entry-level positions to senior roles. We do not have a particular number in mind as we expect most hires throughout the agency to bring a high-level of social media expertise into their positions at Burson-Marsteller.

Anything else to share regarding your company’s social media initiatives?

Please check out our recent Global Social Media Check-up Study, which has garnered a lot of attention.

A core belief within our agency is that marketing and communications programs should be based on solid research. The Social Media Check-up tool which was used to generate the survey results allows us to apply this same Evidence-Based approach in developing strategies for our clients in the social media space.

Visit our advertising blog AgencySpy tomorrow for an interview with John Bell, Managing Director of our 360 Digital Influence.

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