Social Media and Public Relations

I never really considered myself to be in tune with the social media craze.  I really consider myself to be more old-fashioned : I prefer conversation to tweeting, and pen and paper to blogging.  However, social media used in public relations has proven to be a huge step in the right direction for the profession as a whole.

In browsing online, I came accross three different, yet revelant, articles that focus on social media and public relations.  The first article focuses on the difference between traditional and online public relations.  The second article talks about how public relations practioners use social media for desired results, and the final article shows how the intergration of both strategies had positive results. In the article by Anthony Mora, The Difference between Online and Traditional PR Mora talks about how PR practitioners  used print media to get their tactics across.  Using newspapers, magazine articles, and other forms of the sort, practicioners were able to “tell a story” of the companies they represented and showcase them in a positive light.  In Mora’s opinion, the difference between the traditonal and online form of public relations tactics is that the latter is more similar to marketing and advertising tactics.  Whenever PR practicioners used print media to get their ideas and information to the public across, they had to go through a similar process that journalists are familiar with; a term that Mora refers to as “vetting”.  Speaking from a journalist profession, before anything can go trhough publication, it first has to be submitted to a string of editors that tighten, fact-check, and proof the article.  This is what the term “vetting” is used to describe, and this is what Mora claims makes the pitches done by PR pros more credible and solid. When social media is incorporated, this process gets taken out (Mora’s opinion, I would say).

Even though the first article spoke on how PR practicioners use social media (i.e blog sites, company sites, etc.), the second article dives deeper into the subject.  In

<a href =http://mashable.com/2010/03/16/public-relations-social-media-results/“>Using Social Media for Results</a>, author Christina Warren points out some key social media websites that PR pros use and their effects, which she calls their “toolkit”. She uses a great example of how PR professional Jeremy Pepper uses Twitter to reach his client’s niche audience.  In using Twitter, he reaches out to his target audience by tracking keywords pertaining to the company, carrying conversations with the public, and answering questions for both sides(check out their

 <a href=http://twitter.com/#!/palisadedlp“>twitter page</a> ).  Like Warren states, these social medias are platforms used by successful PR practitioners who can understand the benefits of using outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate to the masses and to form great strategy options for their clients.

The previous two articles are a great way to bring the last article in, which shows how the intergration of both resulted in a positive after effect.  An article by the Wall Street Journal published in April of this year shows how Terry Kalley used both traditional public relations strategies and social media channels to gain awareness and support for the drug Avastin. The article provides full descriptions and pictures of the

<a href=”http://www.socialmediareinvention.com/2011/04/freedom-of-access-to-medicines-integrated-digital-media-traditional-patient-advocacy-pr-strategy.html >social media tactics</a> used.

A little backstory:  Avastin is a drug that can be used to slow the progression of certain cancers, like colon and breast cancer.  Approval was needed by the FDA in order for the treatment to be covered by insurers and Medicaid, as it was costly.

What Talley did in the traditional sense: he met with legislators and policy makers, as well as Avastin Co. representatives, and promoted coverage from newspapers.

What Talley did in the Social Media sense: he created a webpage, used social media “buttons” to connect to the webpage that served as the “home base”, and used Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Youtube as “outposts”.  All these were used to create public awareness and advocacy, provide in-depth information to both the company and the drug, and become a conversational tool for the public, showing both support and appreciation.  Although the drug was not approved by the FDA, it became more widely known through the efforts used.

This brings me to my final conclusion.  In the world of PR (or, at least my view of it), practitioners are the mouthpiece for their clients and their products, and how they can effectively sell them is the key to their success.  In using social media, not only do they “keep up” with what’s current, they can reach the public in ways that cause for a more successful marketing of their client, and a better use of two-way communication. This, in my opinion, is the main ingredient to reach that level of success.

– Jaleesa S Pouncil

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36 thoughts on “Social Media and Public Relations

  1. I think our class alone has proved that social media is a very effective way for PR practitioners to communicate more directly with the consumers or target audience. I’m wondering if this is just a trend or social media is here to stay – if Google+ will catch on, or new websites will be created. I’m pretty excited to find out, but truthfully I’m getting kind of sick of all these websites for personal use. However, gearing the market towards technology is a smart move due to everyone’s apparent obsession with the latest and greatest gadgets. The whole Avastin story is pretty interesting, seeing as medicine is coming into strange territory. There are so many advertisements for medication saying, “Ask doctor if ____ is right for you.” Since when did people not need a medical degree to diagnose? I guess self-diagnosis never needed an education to back it up.

    -Silvana

    • Silvana,
      I completely agree with you. In my own personal blog, I talk about how I feel “old school” compared to all my peers. I really don’t like the fact that everything is now done on the computer; it makes tihngs so impersonal to me. But, in regards to companies moving towards technology, I firmly believe we all move with the sign of the times. I believe with our current craze of social media, it will be here for a long time coming. New websites will spring up in place of old ones, but the idea of connecting to people through social media is what makes it so effective in my opinion. Just like the transition from print to radio to television to get our information, all other media outlets will just have to adapt and make room for the newest media outlet.

  2. Silvana, it’s def not a trend. If you follow thought leaders like Brian Solis, Peter Shankman, Pete Cashmore, Guy Kawaski, David Meerman Scott, Howard Rheingold – you’ll see that it’s here and it’s part of PR.

    Like my example in class – the iPod we didn’t know we wanted a device that could hold 1 million songs until we had one.

    I think the larger point here is we don’t know what we don’t know. Is SM here to stay. YES! Will Google+ trump FB? IDK, but I do know that SM will evolve. Gina

    • Very valid point. As mentioned earlier, when you look at the evolution of other media outlets and the transition between them (i.e. print, radio, and television), everytime something new came out, the other outlets just made room for it. And when we stop to look how everything is now turning to technology, I agree that social media is not a trend, it’s here to stay. As mentioned in my blog, it is a great tool for PR pros because this is where everyone is right now. Companies, news outlets, the public, we are all online. I was just thinking how when I was in high school, the only thing done on computers were midterm papers and finals and other really important articles of writing. Now, virtually everything is online– grades, classes, assignments, etc. You name it, and you can find someone doing it online.
      About Google+, it’s my opinion that unless they can incorporate some of the same things on their site that are desirable to users on sites like FB and Twitter, they won’t be able to . A much better idea is to come up with new creative and innovative ideas that FB doesnt have. When Myspace first came out, it was the biggest thing. But then FB came, and Myspace was no longer “it” . Now that we have Twitter, I start to see more and more people flocking to use Twitter than FB (I haven’t caught up yet, but I’m pretty sure I will).

  3. Jaleesa,

    I too prefer the pen and paper or a phone call rather than a message on FB or Twitter, for example. To me, it just seems extremely impersonal and bit of cop-out method for keeping in touch with people. But, SM does appear to have it’s a place in the PR world. I do see the benefits of companies being able to interact with people through all these different sort of networks, it’s more like they want to be a part of the community and to be helpful rather than just make money, even if money making is still there main goal, at least it’s done with some interaction. All of these different ways for companies to connect and give out information is pretty amazing. It makes me think that the assignment I had in 8th grade where I needed to contact a company asking for information (I think it was fiscal type stuff and the history of the company, I can’t exactly recall) would be so much easier now with everything that is made available to us. I remember half the class never heard back from their company, now, I would imagine nearly everyone would just because the companies seem more interested in reaching out, rather than staying guarded.

    • I think there is a distinction here between how we personally want to connect and how businesses connect. Prior to SM tools, companies could ONLY connect with their audiences via more traditional tools of the trade – newspaper, TV. We still use these tools, but now with the advent of SM we as practitioners have pure two-way communication directly with our customers. Gina

  4. Dayna,
    Yes! I am not the only one! Seriously, I know that there are some people who agree with me, but I honestly felt out of the loop with all my friends and peers. I was speaking on a personal level (complaining, really), but I have to get over it because this is becoming a major part of business. We live by technology, it’s everywhere in our day-to-day lives. Even with me. If I lose my phone, you’ll see me in a corner crying. My phone is like an extension of me, it’s just that serious.

    The main reason for the order in my paper was to show the positive effects that social media has offfered. When you see how it was done to now, you see that traditional PR tactics could be time-consuming, difficult (with schedules and appts), and more one-dimensional than with SM. Now, it seems the entire world is only a click away and you can connect to anyone, anywhere. And the thing is, your message is sent all over. People you’ve never met in person can know a creative idea of yours. That, to me, is the beauty of it and shows a major positive for PR pros. So it makes for many dimensions–in the last article in my blog, it showedjust how many outlets could be used, what they could be used for, and how important each of them were to getting the final result. This tactic reached so many people, and it didn’t take long either. What used to take days only has to take hours with SM. Your last example shows that. For companies that aren’t a household name, it’s much easier to get to that level with SM than anything else in my opinon. First of all, the cost makes a difference (FB and Twitter, WordPress, different blog sites–all these are free), you have the potiental to build a pretty solid fan base or following without having to come out the pocket, etc. I am not knocking down traditional media; my real arguement is when both of them are used, you can acheive greater effects.

  5. Two way communication is what sets PR apart from marketing/advertisement and PR practitioners should be communicating with their consumers. Social media has definitely become the most effective way to do so. This whole social media thing has been an adjustment for me this semester, but I am enjoying it. I will say, I don’t think its going anywhere either, and seems like every company is using Twitter, Facebook, or now even creating their own. I think having effective communication through the internet is a skill that will be needed, but nothing beats face to face communication to really understand what someone wants.

    ~Taylor

    • I agree with Taylor! PR practicioners have the more personal job of communicating with their consumers. PR people utilize the social networking sites, as opposed to marketing strategist who use the sites for ad sections. Social networking is definitely a way to improve the world of PR. If it is used correctly

      -Porsha

      • I too have had a hard time with new social media. this semester has been the most tha I’ve ever used it, to be honest with you. And the hing about my blog that I was trying to convey is that there is still a need for “traditional” PR practices, i.e. meeting ace-to-face with people that you need to talk to. Sometimes, social media is not going to be able to used in all situations, but the god thing about is, it is another outlet that can be used for extremely positive purposes for not only P.R. practitioners, but for any other career field as wel.

  6. All very true points, re: social media tying into the role a PR practitioner plays. I do wonder how the general atmosphere of places like FB/Twitter/etc will shift the ways in which tactics and information are used and conveyed – moreso than they already are; “keeping it professional” seems like it would alter under the circumstances. I think several businesses have a long way to go to really take advantage of the potential of social networking sites – but then, I’m not sure how many people actually get paid to spend all day at a desk responding to tweets and FB messages…

    –Laura

    • Laura,
      Whenever I think of the “old” FB, it was really created for college students to use. It used to be that you had to attend a college in order to even log on- that’s when I first started getting into FB. I can’t really tell you about Twitter, since this is my first time really using it and getting into it, but backtracking to the evolution of FB- whoever is responsible for constantly upgrading these different sites are going to do whatever the audience shift responds to. Because it proved to be beneficial to FB to open up their membership to
      everyone instead of being just for college students, they opened up their membership. Because of the relatively new trend of career-oriented people, celebs, etc. using Twitter and Facebook as somewhat promotional pages and outlets, I do believe that we will see more upgrades, as we are seeing now with FB.
      also, talking about the benefits, like Prof. Lutrell showed, professionals are taking a second look at social-media savvy people, so I do believe that someone might be getting paid to do “promo tweets” or feeds from their computer. I doubt that is the only job requirement that they might have, though.
      -Jaleesa

    • Well then that answers our question and correlates with my opinion in reply to Laura’s post. I wasn’t for sure if that was the only job requirement that people in that field would have (that all they do is sit at the computer and monitor the feeds and posts to their sites and create them for their companies), but I did take note to the article on your FB page that was speaking on people with social-media skills are needed. Why else are our classes incorporating social media into our assignments? That alone shows it’s necessity to our fields.
      -Jaleesa

  7. PR practitioners are the mouthpiece of America, without PR, I highly doubt America in general would be even remotly close to as civilized as we are today, personally I praise PR practitioners because without them I wouldnt doubt every company would eventually come off as a “Kanye West” or worse. But with socal media, their positions to me only fill in the error’s that PR practitioners lack such as immediate responces. I do believe with the socal media being so direct and up-todate every company uses twitter and facebook only to respond without having anyone to wait. Closest thing to instant respone as they could provide, and the best thing is, everything works

    • I’m very interested to know the reasons behind your first sentence. I do give PR their credit when credit is due, but I never thought about it that way and I’m curious to know your reasoning behind that.
      As far as the companies are concerned, PR is only one factor in big-time corporations, in my opinion. You have marketing, communications (which might fall into PR), advertising, etc. I feel like the entire corporation is a body, and these different divisions are the parts. Without one part, the body wouldn’t function as well as it could.
      And for the social media, are you saying that they lack immediate responses? just trying to understand.
      -Jaleesa

  8. The point of social media in America is to “keep up” with consumers because those are the individuals that you count on to buy products, or whatever the case may be. Being an old-fashion PR practicianer is ok, however, it is important to expand your use of communication in different ways. In this field following the trend and knowing your audience and how to reach them is imparative. Social media is expanding, the more technology expands. Before their were social sites, computers and smart phones, the radio and newspaper became a useful tool. As time progresses, so does technology. Two way communication seems like an effective method for sending press releases or discussing products for business. I used to be just like you, old fashioned and not really in tune with the latest trend of social media. I realized that I have to keep up in order to succeed in this business. Twitter and Facebook have become necessary in communication and responses because its alot more exciting to most consumers than to sit at home and read a newspaper article or listen to something on the radio. Technology follows you everywhere you go and it is much more efficient to learn and develop right along with technology.
    -Martise W.

    • Martise,
      I completely agree. My main point I was trying to make was showing that interest in social media, for me, is really not there. But the simple fact that I have a FB and Twitter shows its importance. I should have put little disclaimer in- the ONLY reason why I have pages on both those sites is because it is imperative to my schooling and professional life. I was trying to show how if it were up to me, I wouldn’t need one or even have one for curiosity sake. FB is really tired to me, and I’m still learning about Twitter.
      So I agree, I have to use social media outlets to keep up with the “times” . But I do believe that in order for PR to be all around successful, you need a little it of traditional and new tactics. There is still a need for traditional tactics in PR; my main point was trying to show how incorporating both can be truly beneficial.
      And thank you for the positive comment!
      -Jaleesa

  9. Very interesting article. Public Relations professionals are faced with two very useful outlets. We’re all very aware that social media networks are forever growing and changing. The only problem is keeping up with the times and trends even as they change so rapidly. I think in order to be successful with perhaps the Face book network for example, you have to learn the language. You have to learn the trends and figure out what will grab someones attention. The biggest problem is getting scrolled over or ignored. The difference between traditional PR tactics and the new age approach is that users can get distracted with the internet. I think you really have to be dedicated to drilling certain information into specific groups heads. It’s not an easy task at all. Promoting a certain company versus maintaining your own personal network use are two completely different avenues.The bottom line is like you said conducting productive two-way communication between company and consumer. Although I am in the target demographic for popular social networks, I still find them to be overwhelming at times. I actually prefer print advertising. Its easy, precise and to the point. With social networks often times you have to dig deeper, “click this link” or something of that sort. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages that need to be weighed out. If you’re fortunate enough to be computer -savvy then more power to you! If not the best thing to do if you want to succeed is to jump on board.

    • Completely agree with you on the part of jumping on board. And the thing is, it can be overwhelming at times, especially for older generation careerists who didn’t have the advantages we have. For a lot of them, social media is a learned process- for most of us, it’s something that we do in our spare time.
      As far as the language aspect of social media and learning that, isn’t that true for virtually everything? It would be hard for anyone in any field to get on Twitter and not know what a hashtag was, or how to use it. And deciphering what I affectionally call the “lazy text” language that can be commonly used on Twitter (because of its word restrictions per tweet) could be difficult for them not knowing. For example, I texted my father this message: “hey dad, jus chking up on u. Got an A for my prgect. u owe me $ lol. i’m rotfl right about now. OAN wht r u n ma doin lt8r on? wnted to cum ova for dinner. ttyl8r lyl gigi.” He called me about twenty minutes later, and was so confused on everything I said. Both my parents sat down and tried to figure out exactly what i was saying- it was like reading another language. That really made me lmao 🙂 thinking about these two people, both of whom have MBA’s in business, not being able to decode a simple text message. They still send me texts that spell out everything to this day and I’ve taught them the meaning of so many used abbreviations they should be geniuses on the topic. I had to make a FB page for my mother just recently.
      Going with the trends is very important, which is why social media is being used so heavily, and not just in this field either. This is the “it” thing to do; even my grandma tweets. Knowing what is in, knowing the language to use and the format to use it in, and knowing your target audience is just like research strategies used in traditional PR formats. It’s the same exact thing, just using a different outlet. What i think the main thing should be is to find that appropriate balance- not everyone, contrary to popular belief, uses social media. Believe it or not, there is a niche audience tied to that.

  10. There is no doubt that SM is now in the process of being the backbone of PR. If anything, it will get more and more popular rather than fade out as suggested. I totally agree with Gina that we don’t know that we need something until we have it; although this is a whole different argument 🙂 I do agree for sure.

    In the meantime, I would have to say that I am also like Jaleesa, a person who prefer face to face interactions on any level, however, there is really so little that we can do about it. Technology will not stop and we have no choice but to learn it to be able to keep up; because we don’t live alone and because technology does for sure make our lives easier.

    • Well said, Midu. What is amazing for me to know (and makes me really happy I put that little disclaimer in) is that a lot of you can identify with me, which is very surprising to me. Like i said in the earlier reply, as popular as social media is, there is still a niche audience tied to it. Not everyone is jumping on the SM train. And although I do believe in keeping up with technology, because we live in that kind of world now where technology runs the world :), I do believe in finding some sort of balance for people who manage to stay out of the loop. There are still consumers, still a part of the general audience, and still contribute. for example, because I am really not into SM like that, most of my information I get from traditional outlets, like t.v.and print. PR pros, and really other pros in media-driven career fields, know this fact (or should). I do not believe that SM is going to take over and we will no longer have our traditional forms; I believe that there will be room made for SM in PR tactics, as we’ve seen, and it’s just another form of media used to get messages across. Just like television and radio didn’t drive out print.

  11. I thought you wrote a very well thought article. One of the points that stuck out to me is one that we often spoke about in class which is, how PR is more so a two way street in terms of communication with consumers. That is the main difference between marketing and advertising. And what better way to talk to the customers than social media. I think its much for efficient. Rather than calling and holding for 20 hours and going through ten different automated prompts, talking to a company via twitter seems much easier and less stressful. Most of the time they are efficient in tracking their keywords and getting back to consumers in a timely manner. I for one am relieved that social networking websites have given us those options. 🙂

    -Orlando

    • Orlando,
      SM has its advantages, but traditional media has its advantages as well. One of them being that one-on-one is typically more personal and the privacy around it is well maintained. PR pros realize (or they should) that typically anything that is put out on the internet doesn’t have this inpregnable fortress of privacy around it- although I realize that the role of a PR is really to get the word out. Likewise, there is no real regulation of the internet. One of our classmates talked about the Dominoes disaster- in a matter of literally minutes and seconds, EVERYONE saw that video which unfortunately hurt Dominoes corp. Although their steps to recovering their credibility was impressively done by PR, it still highlighted just how fast paced news, esp. bad news, travels. And sometimes it seems like even when using the same outlet, bad news always travels faster than good news. PR’s have to know what it takes and keep up, which can be harder done on something as vast and broad as the Internet. My main point in my blog was showing SM as an aid, not a replacement. Nevertheless, I do agree with and recognize its positive aspects, including the ones you mentioned in your reply.

  12. If these social networks were used properly there would be as many headaches. companies pr people use these networks to promote things well why not use them as communication tools out side of promotions. how about posting things that will affect them, changes that are coming, keep them in the loop. don’t just use these social networks as why to give away thing but a way for the customers can interact with them get quick feedback. there is good and bad in everything. this very class teaches us that social media can be used as a great pr tool.

    DEE

    • Oh wow, I’m glad I checked this at the last minute. You replied lol! Seriously, no harm with that comment- that’s just my personality. And as far as your comment, I believe that you agree with me, so really don’t need a huge comment reply. But, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, should be used in the right context and should be used sparingly. Even with people- I always say guests are like fish after three days and tell them so when I have to kick them out :)…my point is, it should not trump or subsitute traditional media, rather be a great aid to it. Too much of anything, and the “new” thing gets old.
      -Jaleesa

  13. Social media to me should be used for a PR cheat code, I truly do believe SM is the key for PR these days, if SM was to not exist anymore PR would become extremly tough for anyone these days, these days SM is used for PR to become easier for everyone, rather it’s a regular citizen or a PR official. Ridding the world of SM would destroy a lot of stuff, expecially the work of PR. I personally love what social media is becoming and I enjoy everything it is now

    • Again, happy I checked on here….this comments are pretty late lol…..nevertheless…..I think it’s great that you are really into the social media cause and it is very important, but honestly, is it really all that? The job can still get done with traditional uses of media; in fact, it DOES get done with traditional media. Some of the most innovative moments in PR happened WITHOUT social media. So like I said, social media is great as a tool, not as a substitute to traditional media. It is still (traditional) very much needed and appreciated by PR pros. I only speak on my opinion, but I am sure that our teacher and articles (if I google it) will back me up.

  14. It really blows my mind how much the world revolves around Facebook and Twitter, I remember the first time I saw a local news anchor say “follow me on Twitter” I was like wow. It really goes to show how much these companys have expanded the last few years and how much people are really depending on these sites to connect and advitise to consumers. It funny how something created just to keep in touch with others has evolved to what it has now. Facebook is expanding more and more everyday. Facebook has more people visit their site then Google on a daily basics. They saw how many people began it to use it daily and used it to their advantage. Now it is used as an advertising and PR tool. I think that it will continue to evolve as well and eventually maybe turn the PR world around.

    • Rhonda (I believe is your name- if not I apologize),
      I don’t think that it will take over to the point where it completely trumps traditional, but it is growing because SM as a whole is growing and expanding. FB and Twitter are just adapting to that growth, in my opinion. I also don’t believe that FB/Twitter is growing for PR and other companies- I believe that it is growing because this is what people are showing interest in, and part of a PR pro’s job is to keep up with whatever is current for their client’s sake.
      -Jaleesa

  15. I agree with you Jaleesa social media within PR can be overwhelming and difficult at times. Although it is, its easier to interact with the audience you’re trying to grab. I found that not only is it companies doing it but music artist, actors, and other celebrity as well! Twitter and facebook is the new newspaper!!!

    • Oh yeah, it’s everywhere! People now use Twitter (myself included) as the biggest example because everyone is on there, like you said. In one of the later blogs, someone talked about how a top designer uses Twitter to appear more “down-to-earth” to her clientele base. As for PR, my main thing I’m trying to get across is that even though social media is the new “it” thing and actually works, it should not trump traditional media techniques that have worked ON THEIR OWN for so many years before SM was really even a big thing. And wait and see, something better and bigger is going to come up either in the field of SM or trump it out completely where we’ll be talking about that in a few years. I’m not suggesting that this is just a craze we shouldn’t take seriously, but honeslty, do we exclude everything else simply because we got a new “toy”?
      -Jaleesa

  16. I know I am super late, but this is really for Prof. Luttrell. Some of my replies to the comments were still done under our class username, and then I switched over. Just letting you know or bringing it to light so there is no need of confusion.
    -Jaleesa

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