NEW YORK: Major brand owners including General Motors, Lenovo and Microsoft are attempting to closely integrate their PR and marketing output in a bid to engage consumers using social media.

The Holmes Report, the industry title, polled 100 executives representing some of the world's biggest companies, and found 60% gave PR teams the primary responsibility for handling social media, with marketing departments on just 8%.

Christa Carone, CMO at Xerox, the digital printing specialist, argued one central obstacle facing firms is the need to stay up to date with a landscape which is evolving at a rapid pace.

"[The biggest challenge is] the nearly daily - if not hourly - emergence of new media outlets that engage in and influence conversations stakeholders have about brands," she said.

More specifically, David Roman, the CMO of Lenovo, the IT giant, suggested the advent of social media sites - from Facebook and Twitter in the US to Sina Weibo in China - has reshaped the market,

"The rise of social media is an easy answer. But it is also the truth. The voice of the individual is amplified, unrestricted and unpredictable," he said.

Simon Sproule, corporate VP, global marketing communications at Nissan, the automaker, added that the convergence of disciplines was yielding new opportunities for connecting with customers.

"The media environment, especially online, forced the change, but objectively it is the natural evolution of more effective storytelling," he said.

Selim Bingol, VP, comms at General Motors, shared this view saying, "Content is king, and the best PR people think in terms of how to get their stories on multiple platforms," he said.

When successfully integrated, devising stand-out campaigns and generating word of mouth via communications supports a virtuous circle, by providing valuable insights for future efforts.

"The ability to listen in real time to many of the conversations that are taking place, and participate or start conversations directly is a major change," said Frank Shaw, VP, corporate comms at Microsoft.

Matthew Anderson, News Corp's group director of strategy and corporate affairs, Europe & Asia, also asserted that PR's rising importance in the corporate arena had another knock-on benefit.

"Really good PR people are taking on top CMO and strategy roles at global companies," he said.

Data sourced from The Holmes Report; additional content by Warc staff