PR and Social Media: Real People, Right Now

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Last week the use of Instagram and its contribution towards building relationships between publics and stakeholders was discussed here.

If the rise in use of Instagram has taught us anything, it is that public relations practitioners (PRP’s) need to think visually to optimise their stakeholder’s presence online, in order to engage and build relationships with publics. PR today is about views, clicks, tweets and likes.

Social media has had a vast impact on the way PRP’s build relationships with publics and stakeholders.

New publishing spaces allow diverse voices to engage in conversations. Amongst myriad communication channels, earning the trust and loyalty of publics and stakeholders is still necessary – albeit, online or offline.

Our messages may only appear on a screen in front of us, but the reality is we’re still communicating with real people.

“There is a danger that organisations embrace social media with little thought to how they can use it as a strategic means of communication” (Grunig, 2009)

Organisations that broadcast editorial messages to online networks, with no effort to engage in conversation with their audiences, are not taking advantage of the interactive and dialogic characteristics of social media. To build and sustain rapport with stakeholders and publics PRP’s need to engage with them.

According to Mark Cameron, CEO of Working Three, what is clear is that Internet users are now becoming very comfortable with social media being embedded in their lives. They are using multiple platforms and using them often.

Four tips to keep your online audience engaged:

  • It’s called ‘social’ media. Be social
  • Be specific, personal and only share information that is relevant
  • Social media requires a certain degree of immediacy. Be quick in your response to change and feedback
  • Use social media as an extension for your existing communication toolkit.

It’s simple. If you aren’t going to engage, get off.

Social media has facilitated two-way communication, by unlocking direct channels of communication between organisations and their publics.

Further, the world of digital media has created opportunities for immediate responses to events and trends, without being restricted by traditional media frameworks and schedules.

However, there are threats to these new opportunities.

Publics have been placed firmly in control of the reputation of brands and organisations. The vast majority of content on the web concerning an organisation is no longer under the control of the humble PRP, and the opportunity for external engagement is immense. These days, it is simply not possible to monitor all mentions online or predict what someone might say.

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Image: Bonds Facebook page

Bonds Baby Search Facebook page was riddled with unwanted commentary early this week; as disgruntled parents took to the online platform to publicly and arbitrarily ridicule those children who were named the competition winners. In response, Bonds relayed ‘community guidelines’ on its social media accounts.

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Image: Bonds Facebook page

Source: Grunig, J. E (2009). Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation. PRism 6(2): 1-2


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