Do you remember the time before Facebook? It might sound silly but in fact we got used to social media [sm] so much that it is hard to recall how we communicated before the rise of social platforms. They have not only changed our personal lives but also the way public relations is practiced. With the introduction of social media, a traditional PR has shifted into PR 2.0., as Brian Solis called it in the 90s. According to Breakenridge, “the new channels of interaction, real time content and the ability to have a 24/7 focus panel gave public relations a chance to fully develop the idea of two-way symmetric communication” (Breakenridge, 2008, p14-15), which is an ideal model of PR described by Grunig and Hunt. But is it actually true that social media brought the public closer to PR and allowed it to be an equal partner in the conversation?
There is no deny that thanks to social media monologue has been replaced by a dialogue. Although most of the sm users don’t use the chance to interact with brands and they are rather the passive recipients of the PR messages, they were empowered by social media to have their voice heard. As found on The Social Media Hat, there are 1.39 billion active monthly users on Facebook, 1 billion on YouTube and 300 million on Instagram which, with the users of other platforms, give brands enormous possibilities to reach the right consumer, with the right message in the right time.
According to Jim Dougherty, social media has changed PR significantly in 6 ways:
- Traditional PR must be fully integrated with social PR.
- User are now co-creators of PR messages.
- PR has increasingly become a two-way conversation
- Social media allows precise messaging and thus more sophisticated and effective PR campaigns.
- SM gives unprecedented insights into journalists.
- The rise of citizen journalists.
Although not every organization needs to incorporate social media to its PR plan, as it was pointed out by The Guardian, in most cases it is necessary for a PR practitioner to know useful social media tools and the best way to utilize them. For his analytical article “Winning Social Media Strategies for Public Relations”, Robert Wynne interviewed experts around the world to outline 6 useful rules for PRs. Although “Be Newsworthy” may sound like a cliché, “Avoid Facebook” is something worth thinking about.
It’s almost April and we’re far behind all the “top lists for 2015”, but there is one trend which has been chosen by trendwatching as one of the 10 top trends for 2015 and it perfectly fits in a conversation about PR and social media. According to this trend report, “in 2015, winning brands will start contentious, painful and necessary conversations”. They will need to take a brand stand on issues important to their consumers and it seems like there is no better place to do that than social media.
Breakenridge, D. (2008). PR 2.0 New Media, New Tools, New Audiences. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.