Seven Ways Social Media is Changing PR

By: Guest | April 4, 2011 | 

Matthew Royse is the author of Knowledge Enthusiast.

Social media is a game changer for public relations.  It is bringing new challenges and opportunities to the profession and to savvy pros.  I have outlined seven ways that social media is changing PR.

  1. Two-way conversation. PR pros can no longer blast out information about their brand or client and expect to succeed.  Consumers and journalists have come to expect that they won’t be “spammed” and will be answered quickly and in a personal manner. Timely, two-way communication is the “new normal.” Listening, engagement and thought leadership are now three areas that PR pros manage.
  2. Digital communication. PR pros need to know the latest digital tools, including social media monitoring tools, Twitter, Google Analytics. They need to understand blogging and the tools that come with that.  We need to understand the nuance of communication for different online communities.  (ie. between communicating on Twitter and/or Facebook.)
  3. Research. The social networks provide a wealth of information to PR pros on target markets, customer service, and media they want to pitch.  They can now create new opportunities that may not have been available before without social media.
  4. Journalism is changing. Traditional media is no longer the “go to” source for information.  The news can “break” from anywhere and the general public has become citizen journalists. For example, look at the U.S. Airways crash into the Hudson River or Michael Jackson’s death.  The consumer no longer relies on big news organizations to be on the scene for news. Companies are, in essence, becoming media companies and their PR pros are becoming publishers.  Be sure to read How is Social Media NOT Journalism?
  5. Faster and more visible communications. In our 24/7 customer-centric world, social media has increased the potential for complaints and the visibility of this negative outcry.  Since we live in a social network, crises happen faster, and response time must be as well. It is important for PR pros to develop their organization or client online presence BEFORE a crisis happens. Because technology is always changing, the crisis plan needs to become a “living” document that helps  provide an immediate and well-informed response to the latest information.
  6. Analytics. PR pros need to understand and use math everyday. Social media can better help track the return on investment, including direct costs of staff time spent using the tools, and measurement of the traffic it drives to a company’s website.
  7. Organizational hierarchy change. Internal and external communications have been democratized thanks to social media taking out the extra layers such as a direct line to the CEO if you are an internal or external stakeholder.

What would you add to this list?  How do you think social media has changed PR?

Matthew Royse, author of Knowledge Enthusiast, is a marketing communications manager for Forsythe Technology. He is also a contributor to Ragan’s PR Daily.

  • Great post, Matt! I appreciate that you don’t delineate PR from social media, but rather, see the two as being connected. I’ve had client experiences where they think PR does not (or should not) deal with social media, and unfortunately pigeon-holed our ability to provide them with a comprehensive communicaitons strategy. Social media is changing up the entire communications game, as more and more people go online, so it would be useful to examine how it can be a compliment rather than an impediment for our companies or clients.

  • mattroyse

    @Krista Glad to hear that you enjoyed my post. I agree that PR and social media should not be separated. There is a turf battle going on right now on who “owns” social media – marketing, PR, customer service, HR, etc. No department or individual owns social media. All departments are in some way effected by it. When it comes to social media, I believe that the role of PR should be as a leader and educator.

  • bdorman264

    Did Gini pay you; you are talking about her business model, right?

    I concur wholeheartedly; it’s like trying to herd cats. Not only are there many moving parts, they sure are moving fast aren’t they?

    In this arena, it appears everyone thinks they are an expert. You certainly have to be able to rise above the rabble (no, that’s not southern for rebel………) and not only get noticed, but get hired as well.

    I would think it would pay dividends if you can quantify the successes you have had with existing customers to not only strengthen your relationship but use it for testimonials as well.

    PR of the future not only better be able to master all of the above but be flexible enough to adapt to change as it occurs.

    Good post Mathew, and I really, really don’t think my nose can get any browner w/ Ms Gini but when I read your article I used her as a frame of reference and think she has it goin’ on in all those areas.

    That’s it Bones, your head is already the size of a melon…………:), no more praise.

  • mattroyse

    @bdorman264 no, Gini, did not pay me. I actually wrote this post without knowing @ginidietrich business model. Thanks for reading this post and commenting.

  • bdorman264

    @mattroyse @ginidietrich It was a good post and certainly makes a lot of sense. I didn’t want to detract from that and sometimes I get too silly w/ Gini so I will try to keep this on a professional level.

    I would like to get to know your work better.

  • I’m not in PR. And I’m not criticizing this post (because it is *clearly* bang-on). But are there really PR Pro’s out there who still aren’t aware of this? Surely not among Gini’s readers.

  • ProNetworkBuild

    I would say that the Innovation Curve is much shorter than ever before. Anticipating for instance that Facebook will evolve into a market place which can compete with eBay, Amazon and gOOgle ~ or not survive. How will the public react to this? Where will the public take their social networking when this occurs? Social Media as strictly communications with our friends will not be acceptable as the societal and medical impact is adjusted into the equation. Mobile technologies will innovate and evolve over the next 12 months, as more buying and purchasing decisions are made based upon user and customer feedback. Grasping the needs of the client, and how that client will react to innovation are the bread and butter of good PR firms, and seeing the world as the consumer sees it, while absorbing the multitude of technologies available will decide success or mediocrity.

  • ShellyKramer

    Love Gini. Love the blog. Agree with Aston.

  • @ShellyKramer Quit stalking me, you psycho.

  • torbenrick

    Greast post – thanks.

    May I add:

    How to use social media as a crisis management tool —

  • ginidietrich

    Matt, I love having you guest blog for us because you’re one of the very, very few who beat my stats!

  • ginidietrich

    @JonAston Oh there are MANY PR pros who aren’t aware of this stuff. It’s sad, really, but I’d venture to guess a high percentage of our industry isn’t even using the social web yet. Which is why I keep blogging about it and having guest bloggers who can talk about it, as well. And @ShellyKramer ? Love you back!

  • ginidietrich

    @bdorman264 LOL! You’re a brat!

  • mattroyse

    @ginidietrich Thanks Gini! I am honored to be able to guest blog for you again.

  • HowieSPM

    Great post Matt. I took a tour of Vocus last summer. I realized some PR people are blasting out releases to thousands hoping a few pick up the story. I have spoken to people who receive these and some get so many its all spam to them. So yes technology is changing everything. The listening tools and how things move around on twitter then to blogs and then traditional media fast are things that I am sure put a lot of pressure on companies.

    Being in Advertising/Marketing this is significant stuff because if my client screws up and the PR side doesn’t handle it well all my current efforts could go down the tubes. Imagine the Toyota commercials in production touting quality and safety…just as the acceleration issue hits the fan.

  • mattroyse

    @HowieSPM Good insight about how certain PR people are using technology the wrong way and “spamming” their audience. Thanks for sharing!

    You also bring up a good point about how Marketing/PR/Ad campaigns need to be integrated together. The Old Spice campaign is a great case study on a successful integrated marketing campaign.

  • 3HatsComm

    Another voice for integration Matt. Think it all works best when it works together. I think PR is more proactive in its strategies, plans to be responsive and uses the new tools that facilitate that speed you mentioned, using the tools for research and measurement. You asked for additions and here’s mine:

    IMHO social media has in some ways stopped spin or the corporate b.s. Don’t misunderstand me, I think there is still way too much hype and nonsense running around. It’s just that I think social media has created a savvier public, now accustomed to a more ‘transparent’ and ‘authentic’ message. So there’s maybe a little less puffery and a little more straight talk in PR and marketing communications these days. My pitches are shorter, sweeter and straight down down the middle, no curve balls. I think businesses are seeing that they can be honest about their goals (making money) and still show a human side, admit mistakes, learn from them and succeed sharing more with their key publics. FWIW.

  • mattroyse

    @3HatsComm That is a great addition to the list! Transparency. Social media allows stakeholders to see more into the inner workings of an organization. Zappos is a great example. With the CEO tweeting about happy hours they have, you get glimpse into how the company operates and treats employees. You can’t talk about transparency without culture. With social media, a culture of an organization is very important. However, some companies don’t have that “open” culture of sharing and learning — making it tougher for them to adopt social media.

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  • blgaskins


  • blgaskins

    Great blog posting! I am currently a corporate communications student studying PR at the College of Charleston in SC and I feel like this past year alone every other thing I have learned and had emphasized to me is the importance of social media and how as an up and coming generation of PR practicioners the skill and knowledge of how to effectively use social media is a vital tool in the industry. Everyone from professors, esteemed members of the comm department’s advisory council, and local PRSSA members are constantly telling myself and others that the ability to expertly establish an online persona and be able to demonstrate mastery of sites such as Facebook and Twitter has become an invaluable and expected tool. It is true that social media has forever changed the way PR operates and the public now expects some form of social media from most companies.

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  • mattroyse

    @blgaskins I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the post. Your are right, social media has forever changed the way the PR operates. The public expects companies to be “social” these days. It is now the price of admission. Good luck with the rest of school and thanks for commenting.

  • AngelaRMyers

    This post is enlightening. Social media is obviously rapidly changing the world of PR, and although you mentioned that most people do not use journalism as their number one source of breaking news, I still feel that the majority of people are going online to read the news. I may be completely off in this observation, and this could be just the beginning of the movement toward obtaining breaking news.

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  • mattroyse

    @AngelaRMyers Glad to hear that you enjoyed the post. Yes, people are going online to read the news but they are not necessarily getting their news from traditional news sources anymore. You touch on a good point, how journalism has changed as result of social media. That is a great blog post right there. Thanks for commenting.

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