Social media and PR: friends or foes?
Social media and PR are yet to completely define their equation and the view from both camps do not point to an easy solution. On the one hand, many see it as complementing channels that aid one another in reaching out to the masses. On the other hand, some are varied of social media’s power over traditional PR channels. There are still others who argue on social media’s efficacy in further amplifying PR’s reach. Still, others fear cannibalization of PR if social media is allowed to enter its operations. Whatever be the case, one thing is certain that with the advent of social media, PR has undergone a massive upheaval. It is quicker, more direct and gives the brands instant feedback. Providing greater engagement, it has given the brands the power to build not just brand following but communities. This disruption is evident from the way major brands have stepped up their social media game to include specific campaigns that are synced across platforms ranging from images to 140 characters. This unlikely partnership between the more contemporary social media and the traditional world of PR is one that has changed the way brands communicate.
PR as a precursor to Social media
Social media gives the brand a platform to dispel misinformation, respond to a crisis in addition to influencing the masses. Many argue that PR has been engaged in similar albeit slower process since ages. The press releases, conferences and official quotes were all meant to both inform and ensure that the company had representation. In many ways, social media is seen as an extension to that function where brand messaging is concerned. The situation has changed since then with social media meriting its own separate plan of action. With its development, PR professionals are able to respond to negative press in real time. This eliminates any permanent damage to the firm’s reputation. They are also able to influence journalist’s stories through social media platforms. So much so that a story being influenced by a trending topic and a topic trending due to a story has become a closed circle. The MeToo campaign is one such instance where a social media campaign became a huge media story because of the impact that it had across platforms.
Social media as a PR channel
PR professionals employ social media as an effective PR channel. It has become commonplace to make official statements through their social media accounts. More often than not, owners of businesses will also resort to making personal statements through their handles. This kind of dissemination of information has elevated social media from its fringe status to a complete ecosystem in itself where the brands compete for followers and likes. Hence, the two functions have become so intertwined that it is impossible to separate the two. It also helps in the identification of the perfect influencers for the brands. Influencer marketing stands as a great example of how public relations, marketing, and social media can find a common ground. This not only helps create a relationship between the brand and the public but also gives you a credibility that only comes with an unbiased third party opinion. Similar is the case with hashtags, the seemingly humble social media technique to generate buzz. It gives the audience a chance to be a part of your promotional defense as they become active parties to your brand’s message.
Change in content
Where once the press release reigned, we have an official tweet or post. Social media, in its nascent stage, was seen as an informal mode of communication that was an amendment to a more formal,
grander promotional campaign. The brand’s content composition has also changed as we move towards a more interactive and consumer-driven approach. Traditionally, PR was centered around the brand and the product and was merely directed towards the consumer. However, with social media, the consumer has become the focus of a brand’s communication. There are even instances where an entire campaign may not even allude to the brand’s product. When Nikon invites you to share your images on a social media platform, it is strengthening its photography community by giving them a platform. Such a campaign is not related to a product launch, announcement or to increase sales. This change from an approach from structured content to more engaging content has led to greater brand credibility and truly humanized the brands from mere entities.
A joint venture
With technological disruption, we see that no function can exist in a vacuum and interdependencies are a reality. The case of PR and social media is no different, where the brands are concerned. As a medium of outreach, social media is a strong PR ally that helps a brand reach its target audience. It aids in a greater brand engagement that gives the brand the ability to build trust with its consumers. On the other hand, it is also a very effective tool to create negative advocacy. One post or tweet often has the potential to undo substantial positive work. In a classic case of bad news travels faster, it is always the negative press that goes viral and has led to a major brand crisis. With the brand’s digital history so readily available, it must create consistency across platforms which includes a convergence between its PR functions and social media campaign. The two, thus, combine to form the brand message. With social media offering instant feedback, public relations has become more dynamic as opposed to its more static structure. Instant crisis management has become a part of the PR manager’s roster of duty. In fact, social media has emerged as a highly effective way to counter any kind of negative news.
Thus, we see that both PR and social media operate in the same pin code when it comes to brands. A good PR professional will know how to leverage its many advantages and mitigate its few risks. We can comfortably say that a PR strategy is incomplete without a digital strategy that augments it. Friends or foes is, thus, a difficult decision to make, we can settle for partners for now.