September 16, 2019
Social Media is the most recent example of how technology and communication has transformed the way companies can interact with the public, and its impact is hard to ignore. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, social media is used by billions of people and businesses globally and has left its mark on nearly every industry.
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 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 it impacted Public Relations?
Well, here are 5 key ways social media has transformed the industry:
Social media has allowed public relations to reach a much larger audience. In the past, the field of public relations was limited to reach through broadcast, magazines or well-known thought leaders. Through social media, brands 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.
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.
In an instant, PR professionals are easily able to create and amplify messages. Brands are now able to deliver news at any time 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.
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, 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, but once found, their voice and authority can also help reach potential customers.
Consumers are not the only one’s scrolling. 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, tone of voice and 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 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 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.