Bonin Bough became global director of digital and social media at Pepsico in 2008, after spending numerous years in digital roles on the agency side, at Weber Shandwick and Ruder Finn. Ahead of SXSW, he talks to the Holmes Report about the development of his role, and offers plenty of advice for social media and PR practitioners.

1. Pepsico has partnered with digital events like Social Media Week and SXSW. What does the company hope to get from these partnerships?

It’s one of the cornerstone pieces of what we’ve done as an organisation and it’s crucial to building that digital competency. By March, more apps have been downloaded from the app store than songs from iTunes. If music was once the barometer of culture, clearly digital is now. If you’re looking for foresight into where the consumers are going to be, you want to be at the centre of that cultural zeitgeist. This is where digital behaviour is being created and where consumer behaviour is being crafted. SXSW is the Davos of digital - why wouldn’t you put yourself at the centre of that? The only way to make it really valuable is to do it across the organisation - it’s not just about marketing and comms.

As for Social Media Week, the next conversation is about borderless brands, and Social Media Week is the only event that is  having a global conversation across 10 countries simultaneously. There is a learning opportunity for organisations like ourselves to figure out how we are going to be shepherds of global brand conversations. What does borderless communication look alike? Our goal is to do no harm but only add value.

2. How important is a PR background for what you do? Do you think it makes you better suited for your role?

I think I had a unique situation. I’ve really been in digital - I got the digital marketing side and the earned side. Those are both really important. There is a unique opportunity for PR agencies to lead in this space because the core of a lot of this is relationship management. But I think PR lacks the technological underpinning. That’s what I think the biggest skillset necessary is - to actually have a technology background. To be able to understand how to mould the clay you need to have some sense of how to mould clay. Even more important is to have some technical background and not just assume you can take the same old playbook from PR or advertising.

3. Give me one digital/social media tool to watch.

Influencer management tools - the ability to manage the people you are sharing info with on Twitter or blogs. Behind all that is the ability to have data on who the influencers are and how they are driving information. An example is Youcast - behind that is the technology to help manage those influencers.

4. What’s one misperception about social media that you would love to correct?

Thinking about social media spending as an absolute number in your marketing mix. First it’s not small amounts you should be investing. It’s not how much you are spending on - the real success is how integrated are those prgorammes into those campaigns you are running. Integrating it into everything from POS to TV, shifting people from impressions to connections. We can’t do that by just tagging a spot.

5. How does Pepsico measure its success in social media?

It’s about aligning the measurements with the objectives of the business. How do we measure it in terms of its ability to drive the business - that could be everything from brand attributes in conversation, to terms of redemption, or trial or intent to purchase.

6. What is the one thing the PR industry could do better in its attempts to embrace digital?

They could move even faster than they are moving now. I came from two major agencies and I think there is still a lot of pushback in the industry. A lot of the industry was saying we are doing stuff when we really weren’t. It was the last two slides in the presentation. The digital guy cannot be the guy who connects the projector. If that is how digital looks in your organisation then you have a long way two go.

You need to look across your organisation and ask, do I have the right competencies? Talent is going to be huge. The startup game is going to be bigger, and we’re going to have to fight for talent in this industry. How are we going to bring new, interesting talent in, and how are we going to train our existing talent? I just don’t think we are doing the best job at that. I look at Huffington Post - they break down people and rebuild them from the beginning. That’s the reason why they are winning. I don’t think the marketing services industries are in the same boat - but they do have access to bigger budgets, so if they do get it, they will be able to move faster.