Learn about the evolving field of Public Relations told by the PRSSA Blog Team.
By: Tara Stacy
Social media has changed the way we all live our lives. For many of us, it’s one of the first things we check every morning while our coffee is brewing, and how many people across the world get their news. It is available to us 24/7, and because of that, news organizations, businesses and even public relations professionals have had to change the way they market and manage their products.
This new world of social media has been changing the way that PR professionals work in the past five years. Instead of just writing press releases and distributing them to newspapers, PR companies are now challenged with satisfying the consumer that gets their news from social media and the internet.
Though some people still prefer print newspapers and magazines, others want press releases to be short and sweet and presented in an e-newsletter format. PR professionals are expected to be active on social media, no matter how difficult it can be to get your message across in 140 characters.
Companies are now also challenged with developing a voice on social media that will help them relate to their customers, because customers are now able to interact with a brand by tweeting at them or commenting on a photo. Taco Bell has created a voice for their company on their Twitter page, and interacts with its customers, other companies, and even celebrities through the company Twitter handle. This allows customers to feel as though they are talking to a real person, not just a company.
Since the rise of digital communications, PR companies have begun to merge with marketing companies so that they can satisfy their customers. In the past, PR companies would help clients with traditional media relations, but if they were to merge with a marketing or advertising company, they would be able to help their clients with more creative aspects such as website promotion and content.
One issue with social media is it can be easily misinterpreted. One comment on a photo or headline can lead to a controversial discussion, which all began as one person’s opinion mistaken for fact causing debates and possibly a PR crisis. When dealing with a situation like this, it is generally seen as beneficially to respond quickly, telling consumers that the situation is being looked into, and that it will be handled with care.
Many have questioned whether educators are preparing PR students for the new social media world of PR and all its repercussions. Marlene S. Neill, assistant professor of journalism, public relations and new media at Baylor University released a study that details recommendations for PR educators:
- Have students analyze business reports and take current event quizzes
- Have students take a statistics class
- Teach students how to evaluate social media accounts using analytics
- Encourage students to take advertising classes