Are PR Firms Training Themselves Out Of A Job?

Given the news that social media may be powering PR out of the recession, it seems ludicrous at first that Shift Communications is answering RFPs for social media training.

“They are not asking us to handle Influencer Engagement. They are not asking us to manage their Facebook communities. They are not asking for us to develop mobile apps,” writes Todd Defren, a principal at SHIFT, on his blog PR Squared.

“They just want us to teach them about Social Media. More often than not, they want us to teach a few handfuls of internal employees to ‘do what SHIFT does’ when it comes to blog monitoring, commenting, and writing; Facebook engagement and posting; how-to set up a YouTube channel; how-to use Sysomos or Radian6, etc.

“After that mission is accomplished, we’ll be cordially asked to leave them to their tweeting, thank-you-very-much.”

Some people see this as madness. Give a man a fish, and he’ll be fed for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll never have to buy one from you, right? But Todd says, au contraire! Social media training is a good thing.

“The folks we’re talking to about Social Media Training are looking to form a cadre of in-house experts who can promulgate Best Practices across the enterprise. Not ‘just’ for PR but as a means of understanding how/when/why Social Media could/should affect their business processes…These trainees are NOT just from the Marketing/PR group: they include Customer Service reps, showroom employees, R&D engineers, etc., each of whom will be tasked with carrying their newfound knowledge forward, both online (on behalf of the Company’s broader outreach) and internally to their own fiefdoms, to help set Social Media Policy.”

The idea, we suppose, is that a customer service rep who knows how to Tweet isn’t going to take away a PR agency’s task. Sounds like Defren is gambling that companies will agree just “being on” social media is one thing, but handling an entire campaign is still best left to the pros.

Another data point, brought up by a commenter on Defren’s blog: agencies have been offering media training for years, and has that put anyone out of business?