Public Relations and Its Role in Social Media

neon sign featuring motifs used in ublic relations and social media

Social media is drastically changing the face of public relations. With every millennial being a member of at least one social media network, it is safe to say that the clear winner of ‘word of mouth marketing’ is social media.

We’ve established that we can reach out to most people through social, but why exactly do we engage in social media marketing and prioritise that over other marketing tools? You could argue that you can still connect with consumers, build a relationship with them and promote awareness of your product through traditional PR activities.

As both public relations and social media are used to build and maintain trust amongst consumers, it is only natural that they both need to be integrated in order to achieve results. Let us explain how the rise in social media and marketing is changing the way we deliver public relations.  

How social media has changed PR

Companies now have to deal with the 24/7 news cycle, where they are able to deliver good news at any time and know someone is always listening. However, this real-time messaging can become a curse when bad news travels through social media platforms. This makes a PR crisis a lot harder to recover from.

Social media allowed PR to reach a larger audience but it has also allowed for greater communication. In the past, communication was a one-way street with consumers having no way of responding to distributed content.

Now, for better or worse, it’s a two-way street. You even get the added bonus of hearing back from your customers, through likes, shares or comments. This also gives a good indicator of how effective content is and how well the message has been received.

Social media has made public relations more affordable for smaller businesses.

Traditionally, PR firms worked with larger organisations to focus on brand management and crisis communications. Today, even smaller businesses can afford to hire a public relations agency to manage their online presence. This is because it’s the cheaper alternative and companies don’t have to opt for a full comprehensive PR strategy.

While there are a lot of similarities between social media and public relations, they do have a lot of differences too.

The difference between social media and public relations

Public relations requires an angle, whereas social media needs a tone of voice. A lot of pitches or press releases are centred on a hook or an angle to deliver a very specific message. On social media they aren’t looking for an angle, they’re looking for more of a personality and cohesive picture of the business it represents.

PR is often seen as one-sided as content simply goes out to the audience and has little or no engagement. Whereas social media audiences are more engaging and interactive as the content is published in an effort to promote a response. 

Social media requires a sustained effort to build a following. It isn’t something that can be left alone for a few weeks and then picked up again. Although PR does also require constant work, it’s a little easier to jump in and out of in order to promote a company at key times, such as creating a buzz around a product launch or the introduction of new services.

If you treat social media in the same way, you’ll quickly lose followers. And, if you don’t look committed to your channels, you can have a hard time attracting new ones.

How public relations professionals use social media

There are many different ways that you can incorporate social media into a PR strategy. Here are some of the most common ways PR professionals use social media.

Firstly, news travels fast on social media platforms. It’s a quicker way to deliver news than waiting for a journalist to publish your story. With captivating short snippets and links, professionals can reach a much wider audience via social media than traditional forums.

If there’s a company crisis, social media is the first place people will head to, to look for a brand’s reaction. Social media allows for a large, attentive audience. Therefore, public relations professionals will use the relevant platforms to publish an immediate response. They can also direct the public to another medium for extra information.

When PR agencies create relationships between brands and influencers, they’re really adding another line of promotion the brand can use to its advantage.

Working with social media influencers improves the quality of content and makes it more user-centric. Influencers generate conversation, drive engagement, and set cultural trends. They are early adopters of new products and services, creating desire amongst their audiences and are almost a necessity for brands operating on social media these days.

Social media is a great way for companies to keep their finger on the pulse. It naturally aligns with a PR strategy and is one of the many tools’ businesses can use to protect and promote their reputations. Combining social media with PR activities will almost always achieve positive results.

Want to talk about social media management? Just pick up the phone or send us an email!

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