The age when we’d launch a press release and wait for traditional media and their readers to talk about us seems long ago indeed. Between the ubiquity of social media as an information source and the decline of paper media, public relations have undergone a dramatic change.
Increasingly, a business’ public relations and social media are closely intertwined. Both disciplines are pillars of communication, and while traditional PR was more focused on a company’s industry, business partners, stakeholders or general media exposure, social media networks offer businesses and users a communication style that is much more direct, informal and of course, immediate.
Social media has driven a fundamental shift in public relations, especially in the following areas:
- Social media has forced business to redefine it’s communication strategies: today, most companies express themselves in a more relational, conversational and human manner online.
- With the growth of social media, our audience has expanded: instead of talking at our users in a unilateral manner, now we speak with the general public. Gone is the one-way channel directed solely at those actors most closely tied to our business.
- This audience expansion implicit in social media means that there is also a stronger emphasis on the end-consumer and consequently a need for businesses to respond and interact in social media channels when there is a reputational crisis, customer service problems or any other situation relevant to the business or sector.
- This larger audience, no longer subject to unilateral communication, is more engaged. People speak to and with the brand in open channels and businesses now have a tool to evaluate their actions, marketing, products, services and the reactions these produce among the general public.
- The immediacy of social media means that a company can quickly see itself wrapped up in the 24/7 information cycle, or involved in a scandal that in times past would have passed unnoticed. On the other hand, these crisis can also pass like a flash in the pan, as the public moves on to the next big headline our non-stop news culture produces.
- Public relations are now a more affordable activity that are within reach for just about any small or medium-sized business. If a company doesn’t have enough money to hire a communications agency or a dedicated PR office, it’s likely that they can still find someone with a communications, marketing or journalism background who has a sophisticated understanding of social media channels and can help with other areas of the business.
The result of all this is an increasing integration between public relations and marketing. Marketers have been using social media since the beginning and now their PR colleagues must do the same, or at the very least, coordinate their activities in order to ensure success.
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