Before digitization, public relations professionals primarily engaged with the public to announce new offerings and industry changes as the face of the organization. With the exponential growth of social media, public relations roles have become much more nuanced and responsibilities have evolved. Now, we must proactively and consistently engage in reputation management activities to monitor a business’ relationship with the public.
As the usage of social media around the world is ever-expanding, there is increasing opportunity for companies to interact with consumers. Now, it has become vital that businesses utilize these social media platforms to establish their online presence and release all kinds of news and information. Companies that fail to effectively use these channels risk losing reach in the digital world.
But how exactly has the impact of social media affected Public Relations?
Well, here are 5 key ways social media has transformed the PR industry:
Social Media’s Reach is Astronomical
Social media has allowed public relations professionals to reach a much larger audience. These include using social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to raise brand awareness. In the past, the field of public relations was limited to reach through broadcast, magazines or well-known thought leaders. Through social media, brands and public relations experts are now able to connect to millions of consumers directly and get content in front of all kinds of demographics and audiences, for a much smaller investment. Social media has enabled brands and businesses to broadcast messages across a wider scope than ever before – with the potential to spread their content globally. Since social media has increased visibility exponentially, expanding reach is vital to the success of a brand.
The more that social media reaches your target audience, the more opportunities you have to strengthen your businesses’ social media presence. To make this work, you should pick the right social media platform or platforms for consistent branding. If your key demographic are on the younger side with an age range from people in their late teens to mid-thirties, you might want to focus on platforms that include Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. These platforms are perfect for strong video content such as advertisements, and interviews with notable leaders and employees at your organization.
If your brand is geared towards an older audience, you might want to focus more of your efforts on Facebook and LinkedIn. These platforms feature more text heavy content that can be used to create meaningful connections with other users. Picking the right platforms might require you to do an analysis on your audience, and understanding your company’s demographic gives you a bigger chance of expanding your business.
Social Media Facilitates a Relationship through Greater Engagement
Social media has allowed public relations agencies to establish a more intimate relationship with the public on behalf of the brands we represent. In the past, it was often a one-way street, with companies disseminating information and no means for the public to easily respond. Through social media, customers are able to interact with content and give real-time feedback through likes, comments and shares. These responses also help brands establish the effectiveness of their materials and how well they resonate with the audience. Since social media encourages consumer engagement, these platforms support customer feedback, good and bad – and allow brands the opportunity to respond just as easily. Responding to significant and thoughtful comments can create deeper respect for your company’s image, and adds a human touch to your brand’s image with social media users.
An important key factor for brands to maintain strong engagement with the public is to respond in a timely and professional manner to comments. Your audience will know that you take their comments seriously if you respond to them less than a day after receiving comments. While no one enjoys receiving negative feedback, you should put in as much time and care to responding to any negative situations with the public. Ignoring problems will not help solve them and could result in a significant decline of your audience. To maintain your company’s positive public image, public relations professionals should apologize for any issues, and be helpful to the social media users who write negative feedback.
The Rise of Social Media Has Led to a 24/7 News Cycle
In an instant, PR professionals are easily able to create and amplify messages. Brands are now able to deliver news at any time during a PR campaign, and be confident that their message will reach consumers, who are always online or active on social. While these characteristics make it a great tool for communicating, it also means the lifespan of stories has become significantly shorter. The social media sphere is overwhelmingly congested with the continuous stream of new information. Followers are constantly scrolling through new content, listening and responding to the latest update. Therefore, journalists and PR professionals need to keep up. The instantaneous flow of news and content can be beneficial, but of course, that means bad news can travel just as fast. The rapid spread of a customer complaint or misstep can be difficult to control and contain, so it is necessary to be proactive and vigilant. That being said, when negativity public comments arise, companies also have the change to address the issue and react promptly through social outreach.
Enriching Brand Storytelling Through Creative Content
Consumers have now turned to social media in order to gather and absorb information. These users are continuously seeking out products and brands that align with their interests and values, providing PR professionals and businesses alike, an opportunity to provide more value to their customers. Through these platforms for social media and public relations, we are able to establish and convey brand tone more frequently and effectively. Giving a brand a distinct voice and personality is more engaging and fosters a relationship between business and consumer. Companies are able to push the bounds of creativity with regard to brand storytelling, creating a narrative through posting pictures, videos, tweets and more.
Additionally, brands have been able to foster this creativity through other users’ content. Businesses now have the ability to extend their voice and reach through the rise of the “influencer.” Social media networks have made it possible for the average person to create their own platform and cultivate a niche following that can be used to market products and services. Influencers with a large following also offer a large opportunity.
It can be important to be mindful of choosing the right influencer for a brand. Many business pros might be tempted to work with mega-influencers, who are people with more than one million followers. While these types of influencers sound good on paper, not all of these influencers might be interested in the type of work your company does. For example, if you work at a movie company, you do not want to work with an influencer who is more passionate about cars and sports. Instead, it is better to work with influencers who enjoy your kind of work. Many of these influencers could be macro-influencers, who are influencers with around 500,000 to one million followers and micro-influencers, who are influencers with around 10,000 to 50,000 followers. Once found, their voice and authority can also help reach potential customers on various platforms.
Increased Access to Reporters
Consumers are not the only one’s scrolling when it comes to social media and public relations. Journalists are also constantly on their feeds searching for trending topics – and often contribute to online content themselves. By following journalists online, we can learn about their opinions on a wide variety of relevant topics, become familiar with their tone of voice and read recent articles. While social media can be a great method of gauging the thoughts and opinions of reporters, it also opens the opportunity to tweet or message reporters directly with a quippy (and relevant!) pitch. Of course, be sure they are open to receiving pitches on social media!
In summary, it is crucial that business and agencies alike continue to leverage this innovation to communicate to the public. These social media platforms have integrated several forms of media and communication and provide value through impactful and compelling content. This tool should be actively incorporated into strategic media planning to reach target audiences and support PR efforts… Needless to say, social media has left an everlasting impact on public relations and will undoubtedly continue to influence and reshape the ever-changing media landscape.