The future of social media for PR


This is an article by Laura Horgan.
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Connecting our thoughts, feelings, ideas and relationships have never been more than it is now. At the click of a button we can find old friends, long lost relatives, college romances and even celebrities, we are part of the online revolution that is, social media. From Flickr to Facebook millions of people around the world are logging on every minute to post new photos of their weekend on the town, update their statuses and tweet to the world, and this revolution which isn’t so new is continually growing – and the PR world needs to embrace it.

Social networking isn’t something that businesses should shy away from; it’s a tool that can be adapted in PR to great advantage. Human emotion is an element in business that can often be neglected. To consumers brands are nothing but a logo and a high priced corporate organisation hell bent on making profit. Social media can create the emotion that some organisations so desperately lack and effectively put their business above their competitors.

Like email, social media is a tool that more and more PR professionals are using everyday to connect with journalists, other PR professionals and customers. It gives the ability to answer questions and queries instantly and manage reputation online with ease.

“PR can now participate in conversations, empower customers and be a champion for products”, says PR professional Jeremy Pepper, Director at Weber Shandwick Worldwide.

The power of social media is extensive it has the power to reach such a mass audience and improve a company’s name recognition; it can change existing ideas of an organisation and redesign the thoughts of the consumers. Social media can drive brand authenticity and build brand loyalty; the future of social media in public relations looks bright, but for how long?

In the past connecting with other businesses and consumers took faxing, phone calls and lengthy email conversations, timely and boring it needed an awakening, and social media has done just that. The day of assignment editors is over, now journalists are being encouraged to develop their own personal brand, and Twitter and Facebook is where they’re doing it. PR professionals always needed to have relationships with journalists to know who they are and what their stories are, there’s always needed to be an established relationship. Facebook and LinkedIn can do this with a friend request and a personal note. More often than not journalists will accept so they too can expand their personal networks.

LinkedIn can also help create a network of contacts between PR professionals and journalists. We can use such a tool to create worldwide connections without even meeting the journalists or PR practitioners. This is how social networking is changing the future of public relations, everyone – especially the future generation – will only be engaging online.

Journalists want, need and crave the big online footprint and they encourage PR professionals to engage with them online, follow them on Twitter, comment on their stories and pass on links to other friends and journalists. The new way to wine and dine is to tweet and follow. Even the press release has changed; whilst it hasn’t ‘died’ it has been transformed.

“If a press release doesn’t have a social element – that is, a way for viewers to comment or share to their social networks – then it doesn’t have legs,” says Amanda Littlejohn,  Writer at Mopwater PR and Media Notes.

Now even the elements of the press release have changed, Facebook events pages, groups and accounts are ways to communicate and distribute the information that was once faxed to journalists, except now everyone can have a piece of the information. Jeff Esposito of Vistaprints Public Relations even believes that in the next five years press releases will take form in videos and sound bites.

It’s now time for PR to get smarter with the introduction of the iPad and similar devices as media is being released both online and in app format. Readers will be able to customise what they’re reading and choosing to only read what interests them and filter out the rest. It means creating and developing new ways to send out a press release with more impact and interest.

But whilst the world of social media will inevitably grow and change, the job of a PR person remains the same. PR still needs to be innovative and creative, stretch the boundaries and stay on top of the game, social media isn’t “a one size fits all platform” says Cara Stewart at Remarx media. PR professionals need to make sure that they are catering for their clients’ needs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter still have niche markets and are sometimes more valuable for the consumers of the business rather than the clients. PR professionals need to find out first whether social media fits their clients platform and if it can really bring them the success they’re after.

Laura is a PR student at Leeds Met University. Articles from Mashable and Fast Company influenced this article. Find Laura on Twitter here.

Comments

  1. After reading the title of this post I couldn’t resist a comment!

    PR not only needs adapting to the changing industry landscape (a change being bitterly experienced by Journalists) but with that comes a change of processes. There is a view lurking that Twitter actually makes PR more difficult during times of crisis management.

    Social Media is therefore both a blessing and a curse. It is a change, a revolution and we all need to adapt. Your observation of catering for client needs is absolutely correct. I would go one step further and always approach social media with cynicism – PR Pros need to take care.

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