Social media and its effect on PR

While different versions of social media are being born daily, what we do as PR people still remains the same.  As many of us noted in our, “What is public relations?” discussion on the first day of this semester, PR is managing relationships through strategic communication.

In Bill Sledzik’s post about how social media is not changing the DNA of public relations “one bit”, he describes what we do in PR as, “We build and maintain relationships through 2-way communication.”  We can see that whether you’re a senior in your last PR class or a public relations professor, we seem to agree on what PR is and should be.

We often hear that the growth of social media is changing everything.  In Sledzik’s post, however, he talks about a presentation given by Peter Shankman at a PRSA conference last week in Cleveland.  In this presentation, Shankman agreed with our definition of PR and explained why the booming social media should not change that at all.

Utilizing social media can help us reach the online population, but we are still using the same principles we’ve learned since our first ever PR class.  Some of these principles include: be honest with our publics, present relative information, keep it breif and catchy, and gain and retain positive awareness.  These are all things PR people have agreed are important to the business, also all things that are unchanging whether online or off. 

“Introduce all the social media applications you like, but the practice of PR as defined over the past 30-or-so years will change little, if at all. The goal is to build relationships, and the tool is meaningful 2-way communication.”  Just because the means of communication may be different, it doesn’t mean the building blocks of our profession have to change.

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9 Responses to Social media and its effect on PR

  1. drgilpin says:

    Good post topic, and very timely. However, you need to make another pass to check for punctuation and grammar errors. (Hint: take a close look at the title.)

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    Glad we’re all on the same page. One clarification. Peter Shankman didn’t say he agreed with my/our definition of PR. But everything he did say certainly supports it. It’s interesting how the new social media thought leaders (Peter among them) reflect a model of PR practice in place long before they (or the Web) arrived. The tools change. The business? Not so much.

    BTW, your professor and I would get along. I’m another one who believes grammar, usage and punctuation are always important — even in social media!

  3. cafuller says:

    I must say that before this semester, I thought I was somewhat in tune with the happenings of the online world. I had a sense that the internet was at my disposal – I used it, it didn’t use me. Then I had the first week of my senior-level PR classes where I left the classroom with my head spinning and my mind in a complete fog. My homework was to set up accounts on what seemed like five thousand new social networks. I wondered if I really knew anything about PR and how much of a future I could really have in this type of world. Then, after a few classes, I realized exactly what you’ve concluded above – it’s all about using the same basic principles in new mediums. Successful PR requires two things: 1.)understanding, using and loving the theories and principles behind successful communication and 2.)continuous and eager learning. We as PR professionals want to teach and inform the public – not the other way around.

  4. Nancy Flores says:

    You said it! I think social media is just another tool for us as PR professionals to communicate the message. We still need to strategically create the message that we are looking to communicate to our stakeholders and members of the media. Think about it, back in the “day” PR Professionals mailed pitched and press kits. Today we e-mail as a form of communication and now we are using twitter and blogs to communicate. It is the same PR, just a different communication channel.

  5. lmdavis2 says:

    I agree with the importance of social media in the PR field, while staying true to the original principles the industry is based on. However, I think it is important to research all different kinds of social medias and select the ones that best fit your client or cause. If you use too many forms of social media you could find youself in some hot water. For example, if you take on too many forms you may not be able to put out the best quality of information on each one because you are too overwhelmed to keep up with them. Also, not every social media is appropriate for every organization. You need to make sure the needs of your client can be met through the social medias that you select.

  6. tmpace says:

    Social media is changing the face of PR as we know it, and that is a fact. I was doing media drop-offs for my internship. I stopped by AZTV, and one of the marketing specialist there was telling me how our generations is the fresh face of PR, and that we need to understand social media. Then she continued on by asking if about Twitter. She was so impressed by what was out there because these were not available to PR practitioners years before.

    I think public relations is hard word to define. Public relations is changing, and clients and companies are changing as well. We need to embrace social media and its effects on public relations. We should not fear the changing our beliefs on what public relations really is.

  7. plepkows says:

    First of all, I am surprised that I am the first to comment on the fact that your link to Bill Sledzik’s post does not work. Could you please send the link or alternate information, so I may access the blog at another time?

    Based on your blog, I have to question your thoughts on “gain and retain positive awareness,” as a core principle of the field of public relations. First of all, what do you mean by this phrase? To me, the phrasing seems to reflect many of the negative connotations – spin doctoring, if you will – associated with our field. I feel that too often public relations practitioners focus only on this notion that positive image is everything. Furthermore, I feel that the power of social media makes it even easier for public relations professionals to ignore ethical standards in an effort to further a positive image. With company blogs and Wikipedia profiles, for example, the content is written directly by the companies, often by public relations people. This means that information is being disseminated to publics without the media’s as an intermediary, as compared to traditional public relations tactics such as press releases. I feel without the media to hold us accountable for our ethics, public relations practitioners can easily ignore core principles such as truth and fairness. With this, do you think utilizing social media on some levels actually detracts our credibility?

  8. gbohulan says:

    I agree that social media can be helpful. Social media with PR can be a nightmare. You have to create so many accounts for different clients with numerous user names and passwords. On top of that you have to keep track of it all with blogs, comments and responding to everything. I know this because I used to intern with Barclay Communications, a PR agency in Phoenix. One of the accounts I worked on was Cynosports. They were hosting one of the largest international dog agility games. I had to utilize social media in spreading buzz about the event. I learned that social media can be a very powerful, yet also very time consuming tool. If done correctly, you can please your client and spread messages quicker than chasing down a reporter in a corduroy suit who decides whether or not your stuff gets published.

  9. sekane says:

    I believe as much as the next person that the use of social media is changing the way we do many things. I am, however, a strong believer that what we do as PR people should not change simply because the tools we use are. I am not being a spin doctor by posting the beliefs that we stress in our journalism classes. I am hoping that you do not believe that because of social media we must change our values.

    Will write more later. Thanks for your comments!

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