I’ve often heard it said that social media and public relations are merging and becoming synonymous. “The New PR” if you will. I typically hear this either from college students or professionals speaking out of context.
Indeed, social media has become integral to public relations, and for the better, improved it. One-way-communication by means of the press release and press conference is no longer the norm. We’ve found it easier to create and sustain relationships with our constituents by means of effective control over social media outlets.
That’s the danger, though, isn’t it? Classic PR seems to be fading into irrelevancy these days, at least in the eyes of those who operate outside of the profession, especially those in advertising in marketing. Peers of mine have often regarded PR as a shell of what it used to be, and public relations professionals becoming social media managers rather than directors.
Sure, I’m a social media manager, so I get that point to a degree, but the concept of public relations being overwhelmed by social media is nonsense, and here are 5 reasons why.
5. Social Media Managers are not Publicists
Facilitating online communities is completely different from so many other aspects of PR, especially publicizing Yes, publicists get a bad rep, but that doesn’t change how good they can be at their jobs. They are just as essential as agents, and you can’t maintain the image of a prominent businessman, politician, or celebrity without a publicist.
4. Social Media only Addresses Consumers (for the most part)
There are some exceptions to the above statement, but for the most part, social media is focused on the interests of consumers and the general public. Social media does little to foster the relationships an entity may have with the government, investors, employees, and especially the press. For many PR pros, this is a “duh” moment, for they constantly fixate on more than just social communication.
3. Social Media can be Difficult to Measure
In many cases, social media is not as easy to prove effective to the powers that be. When it comes to ROI and actually driving sales, social media can be difficult to build a foundation on because it is reactionary communication. It functions in the same way that word-of-mouth does for advertisers. We create the message and pick the channels, but we can’t always see the fruits.
There are ways around this, and I’m not saying that social media is not beneficial (quite the opposite actually). I’m saying that we are not yet at a place where social media can be dissected comprehensibly on a chart, and most PR pros don’t want to take the risk of building their ROI around social media impressions alone.
2. The World is Bigger than Social Media (Right Now)
So many of us live in cities and towns, so we forget that it’s a big world out there. Even within the states, we have to constantly remind ourselves that not everyone flocks to the internet as their source of reference. People still read newspapers and respond better to billboards than sponsored stories. It’s how the world works.
In time, millennials like myself will rely on “outdated” concepts such as (who knows?) cell phones and commercials. Social Media won’t kill PR because not everyone in your audience is using social media. Simple right?
1. Good Social Media Needs Good PR
Ideally, social media is about transparency, effective communication, and relationship-building. For PR pros, that sounds pretty familiar to what is essential about PR. Social Media is more than just a tool of PR, it is a product of it. The idea of instant, transparent communication being out there for the whole world to see is working for many people because many people rely on good PR.
It’s not just about the product. It’s the image and how the image is presented. Without the fundamentals and structure of high quality public relations, social media is just another bulletin board at your local coffee shop. With the right tools, however, it can affect more than just a handful of coffee drinkers.
The two subjects need each other. Be sure to watch how social media evolves in the coming years, and we’ll see just how the profession of PR changes with it. I am confident that both have a bright future.
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