I recently completed an interview with a student on Public Relations and Social Media. Check it out below.
I think what we’re seeing is the beginning of complete integration of marketing and public relations functions. PR people were initially assigned the social media function at most corporations primarily because no one knew who should really be responsible. Social media blurs traditional PR, marketing, advertising, customer service and sales roles.
Relationship management has really transformed. The way companies previously interacted with their consumers or key publics was on a B2C (business to consumer) basis. Currently, consumers have the upper-hand. Companies use to just tell a consumer what they wanted them to know about a product or a service and most often, the consumer would just believe it. If they had a positive or negative experience they may tell five to ten of their friends, but now, word of mouth has really become word of finger.
The average number of friends a person has on Facebook is around 150, so if a person has a positive or negative experience, the word spreads rapidly. Fortunately, companies are beginning to use social media, not as a platform to sell or promote their product or service, but to listen to their consumer, enhance their product or company, and offer a ‘value added’ component to their key publics. There’s a huge opportunity for companies to develop a core group of ‘super fans’ of their product. These are the people who will scream the company’s praises from the rooftop and will often defend them should a negative situation arise online. It really takes strategy development and careful crafting of messages to make this happen.
I think PR has changed with technology. Professionals can fully engage with their consumer one on one, versus trying to engage with a mass group of people. Generally, people have a great sense of happiness when they feel as though their opinions are being heard and this notion is applicable online as well. In addition, things like Twitter and Facebook have provided a nice outlet for PR people to increase their relationships with media.
Has maintaining these relationships become harder or easier?
I don’t know that it’s more challenging or easier, it’s just different. Relationships with PR people and media are on a deeper level through social media, which is extraordinarily challenging. Most journalists will agree that they don’t appreciate random story pitches from people they don’t know. Some journalists love pitches via Facebook or Twitter. It is the PR person’s job to establish a relationship with the journalist and figure out how they would like to be communicated with professionally. However, the mediums PR professionals use are now simpler and faster making it easier to pitch stories or create a ‘buzz’. Could you imagine still using a fax machine to send releases?
Tracking of PR campaigns and tactics have also become easier, which has been a tremendous benefit for people in the public relations field. Historically, it’s been difficult to back up the need for PR because it wasn’t as easily trackable and CEO’s want to see numbers. They want an ROI and if a public relations professional cannot determine that, then they will simply be out of a job.
Have relationships become less personal now that most communication is done online?
If anything, I think they’ve become more personal. To be frank, no consumer or user of Facebook or Twitter wants to be sold to, or engage with someone who uses corporate jargon. I have so many examples of what not to do in social media, it’s quite alarming. They want to interact and engage with a brand that is relatable. Being relatable online is probably the biggest challenge most companies that use social media need to overcome, however, some companies have been rock stars at doing this.
In what ways must public relation practitioners rely on old practices such as print media to compliment online media?
Integration is really imperative. While the online arena is the ‘sexy’, new and shiny thing available, traditional PR or print media won’t go away. It will change its form but people will always read articles in magazines or newspapers. However, instead of reading them in paper form they may read them on their iPad or mobile device. The types of media used should be determined based on the key publics and goal of the project or campaign.
I’ve really struggled with this question. Often times, people (mostly students) will ask me what the future of social media is. I can see it going in one of two ways; either people will get sick of only knowing people online and through status updates or 140 character tweets or they will see online social outlets, like Twitter, as becoming a part of a global community.
People will always have a fundamental need for interpersonal relationships. Online relationships have a tendency to be shallow, but people in general have an inherent need for depth. There are things that can only be conveyed in person, but the online arena has certainly made it extraordinarily easy for people to avoid personal contact all together.