Dave Folkens

3 Ways Social Media Is Changing Public Relations

Dave Folkens     Public Relations, Social Media

Social Media Changing Public RelationsThe widespread use of social media has fundamentally changed how people communicate and share information. According to recent data from comScore, Facebook now accounts for 12.3 percent of the time spent online in the U.S. versus 7.2 percent just a year ago. Twitter now counts approximately 200 million accounts and over 110 million tweets per day.

This downright addiction to social media has made an impact in virtually every industry as companies seek to create strategies to engage on the social web. Public relations is certainly no exception as practitioners seek to communicate with, and hear from consumers, as well as using social channels to share information with key audiences.

Conversation Versus A Speech

PR pros can no longer get away with blasting information out at an audience. Two-way communication directly with the consumer is a tremendous opportunity for businesses to gain real-time feedback on messaging coming from the company. The live interaction allows for ongoing refinement and improvement to make a deeper connection with the target audience. Human connections made possible by listening and replying via social media bring the audience closer to a brand and softens the barrier that exists when people feel as if they’re talking to a company that views them strictly as a potential sale.

Information Gathering

The speed of information sharing is faster than ever before and PR professionals have access to a wealth of content that can be shared with consumers seeking solutions to a problem. Creating a simple keyword based search on Twitter can connect companies with people at exactly the right time to serve as a helpful resource. By engaging proactively, PR teams can create new opportunities to create a favorable brand impression that can lead to the beginning of a social media relationship and a potential business relationship.

Social media has also positively changed long-standing dynamics of the PR/Journalist relationship. Journalists seek information and sources online and PR professionals have benefited from the added access available thanks to social media. Some reporters maintain blogs and others are active on Twitter but gathering information about potential stories is significantly easier than the days of heavy, out-of-date media guides.

Personal Service

With the advance of social media, there is an expectation from consumers that they will not be subjected to mass, non-targeted information and any concerns will be addressed quickly and personally. This one can be challenging for PR staff managing social media efforts. One upset customer on a Facebook page or a challenging blog post can send brands into a crisis mode.

When dealing with this expectation of 24/7 personal service, take time to evaluate what is a real crisis and measure how to respond.  The field of public relations is always an environment of on call issues but social media has expanded both the base of potential complaints and the public visibility of these issues.

There are a number of ways that the field of PR must continue to adapt as the social media tools of today will change tomorrow. Rather than focus on the channels, focus on the expectations of the audiences and how to serve as a valued resource for them.

If you’re a public relations professional, how has social media changed your day-to-day PR work? And, what remains the same despite the new channels of communication?

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  1. You’ve nailed the essence of social media strategy with phrases like this:
    “Human connections made possible by listening and replying via social media bring the audience closer to a brand and softens the barrier that exists when people feel as if they’re talking (to) a company that views them strictly as a potential sale.”

    Once you achieve a level of trust with your audience, the sky’s the limit. People often fail to approach social media as a conversation, one like you’d have with someone face to face. To capture their attention, you need to be relevant, interesting, and sensitive to the person(s) receiving the information you’re talking about.

    • The social element of social media is what really brings the benefits all together for all involved. At our core, humans have been hard-wired to seek connections. Social media is just a new channel that has made it a lot faster than in the past.

  2. awesome post…

  3. Hi, Dave.

    I’d like to think that good PR practitioners have always striven to create conversations rather than just push messaging at their audiences but I’ve also been around long enough to know that such is all-too-rarely the case. So I wholeheartedly agree with your points.

    In answer to your first question, one of my colleagues wrote a great post yesterday about how she now uses social media tools to effectively reach out to journalists. Your readers might want to look at that post at http://francis-moran.com/index.php/inmedia/pitching-in-the-new-media-world/.

    We’ve also written a fair bit in answer to your second question. What remains the same is the set of fundamental questions you still need to ask. Do these new channels reach your intended audience? Do you have effective messaging that is suited for the particular attributes of these new channels? Will the resources necessary to succeed on these new channels deliver a return worth at least as much as the same resources spent elsewhere?

    • I unfortunately have to concede that creating conversation shouldn’t be new but it can be a real challenge for many companies.

      Thanks for your comment and added thoughts.

  4. I think that PR professionals are still very much focusing on the channels, not focusing on the expectations of the audiences and how to serve as a valued resource for them. It will take a few more months, or years, of experience in this new media to define rules that work in this relatively unknown environment. I’ve seen a lot of superficial stuff done as school projects, marketing blog posts from the usual self-proclaimed experts and their on-line chums, or PhD theses, but nothing that really hits the nail on the head, from a true expert.

  5. Social media has definitely improved the ability to monitor what is being discussed about the company brand and there needs to be a response mechanism built in to the new PR organization. I still believe that the old fashioned targeted PR messaging still needs to be a part of the arsenal because not all of your journalists and consumers are monitoring a company’s social media activity. So what I guess I am saying is that the PR effort needs to be double what it used to be to cover all the targets. Old and new methodologies need to be followed.

    • I agree Stephen. The advance of social doesn’t replace traditional tactics in my mind. It’s just a further expansion of what PR pros jobs should include and a strong social media skill set is important in the world of PR today.

  6. I like to use social media to make friends with media professionals, they are a great resource to grow any business.

  7. Social is vital like for human beings, companies should be the closest to their clients especially in term of strategy, it can be easier to get some feedbacks using social

  8. I agree, mass marketing toward consumers is not effective anymore. A new conversation must be in effect – one can not only speak, one has to listen to reach an audience.

  9. Avatar Neha H Jadhav says

    The social media today has got the world a smaller place to live in. Finding information and get quick reviews about any brand or product has become faster due to the use of social media networking…

  10. Avatar Neha H Jadhav says

    Personalized communication with the target audience has become possible with the use social media networking where the companies target the right audience through social media and have a one to one interaction with them, which to a large extend influences the buying decision of their customers.

    • Avatar Anonymous says

      It is a great opportunity for companies. It also raises the expectations of consumers so companies must be prepared to deliver on the implicit promise of engagement they make when using social media.

  11. Avatar Kristen Lawrence says

    Great post! I am in a Communication and Technology class at the College of Charleston, and I definitely agree with you! Social media has taken away the gap between public relations and the customer. As always, there are pros and cons with every new technology. This two-edged sword allows companies to receive almost instant feedback on a product or idea from it’s customers, while emphasizing the importace of always being one step ahead in case of any crisis that could emerge. The main concern for public relation practitioners and companies is that in order to use social media, one must understand social media, and therebye use it to its greatest potential. The fact that social media is now a part of a Communication major’s corriculum shows the importance of understanding it and knowing how to transform social media into what works best for each individual or company.

  12. Avatar shivigonesocial says

    social media has helped almost every business domain and PR is no exception. Maintaining good public relations for your company requires continuous effort…therefore social media should be used not only as a one time engagement strategy but should be used in continuation

  13. The key change is that audiences – whether media or consumer – now expect to be treated only to relevant targetted communication.  Why should they tolerate random shotgun communication when they have learnt the power of one – one interaction. 

     Rather than focus on the channels, focus on the expectations of the audiences and how to serve as a valued resource for them.  Exactly right.  

  14. Given another perspective on use of social media & Public Relations pros – will use some of them in my paper for 21st Annual AMIC conference (www.amic.org.sg) in Malaysia – Social Media, Journalists, Public Relations – Trust or Distrust. If anybody is keen to share their views – please mail me on [email protected] or [email protected]
    Am trying to understand the role played by social media when used by journalists – print/TV and by PR Agency or Corp Comm pros and the interplay of both these groups leveraging or using social media to write better stories and ability to push client message through the media. This paper is aimed at understand this for Journalists in India (Hyderabad & New Delhi across English Mainline, Regional/Vernacular, Financial & News Wires as well PR Agency & Corp Comm pros across industry verticals) vs Malaysia for the same group. I am writing this paper along with Dr. Kiranjit Kaur from Faculty of Communication and Media Studies Universiti
    Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.
    Would be very happy to get more views & inputs on this subject and any reference material if possible.

  15. Avatar Adedamola Jayeola says

    One change that is frightening and exciting at the same time is that everyone has become a virtual journalist. News breaking on social media hours (atimes, days) before it gets on print really attests to this. The News release keeps getting challenged everyday.