Social Media in Modern PR Communications

19 July 2010 By Northern Lights

Social Media in Modern PR Communications image

Shaeebby Shaheeb Tanwir, Intern at Northern Lights PR

PR & Communications- It’s a lot of things to a lot of people, but seldom accurately described. It’s a highly important, charismatic, and dynamic industry that demands the utmost respect from the world as any self respecting industry would.

Similarly, any self respecting industry is constantly at the forefront of technological advancement. PR & Communications has been rather slow on the uptake; however, it is a case of better late than never.

What media did PR use?

Traditionally, PR professionals stuck to media such as newspapers, magazines, TV and other print media to communicate with audiences. With the dot com boom in the late 1990’s they began using basic websites to send out messages to people. Ultimately, whatever media the audiences use for news and entertainment is a viable target for PR campaigns; hence PR had to follow audiences onto the limitless expanses of the World Wide Web.

So what’s all this social media kerfuffle?

Darcy DiNucci first coined the phrase ‘web 2.0’ in 1999, and in 2004 it was thrust into the limelight with the O’Reilly Media and Media-Live conference on the subject. Post web 2.0, web users could use the internet on a multitude of devices, it allowed for greater interoperability, it allowed them to run software applications entirely through a browser, and also offered a great degree of user generated content and user interaction. The technology gave birth to unique business models and gave everyday individuals a chance to publish thoughts and feelings within seconds.

What does it mean for PR & Communication?

Ever tried telling a PR consultant that what they do is glorified advertising? Don’t try it! The reaction isn’t pleasant. Truth is, if people think PR is a form of advertising then they are far away from the truth. If advertising is the process of telling audiences something then PR & Communications involves communicating with the audience and integrating them in a respectful manner. In PR, one cannot simply talk at people – if you think you can, then look at some failed social media campaigns such as the Nestle campaign (remember, Greenpeace vs. Nestle?).

Remember what we said about users being able to generate content and interact with one another post web 2.0? Well, that is the lynchpin of social media marketing’s future success.

So how should PR make use of social media marketing?

Answer: in much the same way as traditional campaigns are run.

See, a wise, not-so-old Director of  Centre for Public Relations Studies Prof.  Anne Gregory PhD reminded me of how a good social media campaign should be run. One cannot talk at people by telling them what to believe, but rather ‘infiltrate’ the relevant community, create a following, and influence a perception amongst a mass of people. You can only nudge a conversation or an opinion in your favour without resorting to tacky advertising tactics.

Perhaps in the future the PR industry will be at the forefront of new technology, perhaps PR will lead the way in utilising the semantic web and the personalisation web 3.0 will offer?

For now though, we can sit back and enjoy the creativity of PR professionals in utilising the internet.

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Written by Northern Lights


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  • Hi Rob, many thanks for your comment.

    I guess there are many inter-dependencies with newspapers amongst businesses, sports, and political parties and even if these are reasons for newspapers to hang around a while longer, I personally feel in due course they will eventually be obsolete.

    I feel with the cost implications with traditional print media, at least comparatively, means it’s more viable to have e-newspapers entirely. I feel it’s a generational thing; the generation currently associated with the social media boom will graduate onto reading and surfing the news; habits often associated with older people – except this generation will prefer to read it online. With WIFI hotspots becoming more common I feel it’s just a matter of time before everyone prefers to walk around with more efficient versions of the iPad (they do the job; but not worth the money!)

  • Hi Shaeeb

    I think I’m with you on the obsolescence argument. What’s my butler meant to do when there are no papers to iron?

    The iPad would be a great format if it were lighter, rollable/foldable and a bit more sociably the norm. It will come. For now, I still feel awkward using one in a meeting, even though I now write my notes which convert instantly to text and then email them back to the office and to the client, before I’ve left the room. They are a great step forward, but we’ve a few years yet before they will replace the printed word.

  • Hi Rob

    The iPad has a long way to go in technology terms – which is in the region of 4-5 years; Dell, Google, and certain other companies have created or are about to create more valuable alternatives to the iPad, however the principle behind the technology is in my view going to render printed press completely unfashionable… technology grows and adapts very quickly; I don’t see newspapers getting ahead of the game too much in the next few years.

    p.s. If your butler begins to get bored without papers to iron get him to manage your RSS feed with the stupendous amounts of online news sources that will no doubt be springing up in the coming years!

  • A well thought out and informative piece bro, I’ve been following this trend myself for a while, still getting to grips with the pipes and what not (yahoo and pixel, not those that american senator was banging on about) just stumbled on this site but it seems like a good read, i’m adding your rss to my google reader now.

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