Social media is no longer a game for young men. It has been adopted by a huge section of the population and is now anchored in how we connect, support and educate. It has also revolutionized how businesses work, as the PR industry has to adapt to these new challenges and social media that are undeniably influencing the public. Let's take a closer look at traditional PR and look at the four ways social media has changed it forever.
Social media determines facts and fate
The idea of being one step ahead of the story or managing it in any way is standard in PR, but it's not exactly how it goes on social media. The public will ultimately follow the stories that are of interest to them, followed by a public forum that decides the fact and the fate of the brand, the individual or the topic of the story. This is of course not fair, since the story can be written by almost everyone and all pages of the story are rarely adequately presented.
Take the Folau case against Rugby Australia, in which its unacceptable vagueness caused the public (who used social media as a vehicle) to put pressure on Qantas to drop Folau. Labor lawyer Alan McDonald has stated that these measures may have made Qantas liable, which is not the page we have seen on social media.
Statements are not planned, they are required
There was a time when a brand prepared its statement in time with a PR team and sent this message in a format that was best suited for that brand. Now it's the public and their discovery of a story that requires a statement from this brand, which is usually published on social media. As we saw in the underpayment scandal where Woolworths, the Super Retail Group, Bunnings and many others didn't pay the right price, social media made this story accessible to a wide audience, which triggered a chain reaction for these business titans Message.
In fact, companies that withheld certain details (such as how much was withheld and until when it would be repaid) have been put under increasing pressure by the public and held accountable for reporting on their progress in this area. Social media has also made it possible for former employees to see and report these stories and collect their payments.
Another defining way in which social media has changed PR is that it is a relentless channel that searches and cultivates a forum on any number of topics or stories at the same time. A PR agency is made up of human resources, and this cannot be the “always-on” nature of the social media news cycle. McDonald Murholme is a labor law firm that often adds comments to current stories in our news feed. It's amazing to see how insular social media really is in terms of law, privacy, and other values that we respect in another area of our industry.
This has many advantages and disadvantages, as social media are insatiable, but brands and news agencies should not try to fill these gaps with messages and content that are inappropriate or that devalue their brand in the interest of a higher number of likes. Quality is not always the predominant parameter on most social media platforms.
It has lowered the entry barrier
Another way that social media has changed PR is the low barrier to entry. Anyone with a social media account can ultimately cultivate an audience, position themselves as an authority figure, and in some cases further strengthen their beliefs than a PR agency. This puts PR staff in a challenging position as brands may see more value and reach from an influencer rather than paying a PR agency to turn to a media company that doesn't necessarily appeal to a wider audience.
In fact, it becomes such a widespread fact that much of the day-to-day PR work is reaching out to influencers and shifting focus to that channel through the tactics of the basic press. Given that influencers are now turning directly to brands, it will be interesting to see the future of PR.
Social media is going nowhere, and with increasing screen time, PR staff need to think creatively about how to use this channel for their own benefit while still being kept up to date so they don't violate media laws.