Through the last few weeks, we have been reading a lot about how public relations is changing and evolving as technology becomes more advanced. If you have ever studied PR, you know that some of it is not much like what you actually study. As I have been getting out in the field and doing public relations, social media is much more a part of modern-day public relations than we are taught. Classic means of reaching out to your public, such as press releases and feature stories, are not as effective as they once were. Typical press releases that were in paper form are virtually unheard of now. If you are going to send a press release, you definitely need to have something more interesting than you might have had before, like adding hyperlinks or pictures to your release.
Although much is changing, we don’t need to throw out everything we have learned. We know what sorts of things people like reading and what will make them interested, so we just need to learn how to apply what we know to different mediums. In an article for PR Daily, Jessica Lawlor notes five trends for PR and social media in 2014. The first two are about giving up control of your brand and letting your superfans do marketing for you. A great example of this is stated in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge. They talk about SkullCandy and the people who tweet and post about them. There are over 180 SkullCandy blogs online, showing that “the brand’s customers are its surrogate sales force” (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p 22). This is hard for public relation pros because you want to be the person giving out the information about the brand, but it’s silly to think people aren’t talking about your brand anyway. By giving up control and letting others take some of it, you make your brand seem more genuine and trustworthy.
The last three are more about just being smarter with what you’re posting. If you overload the people who follow you with links, spam and retweets, when you want them to read your content, they won’t notice it. There’s a difference between staying on the radar and being annoying. We have to remember that we are not only being the content creator for the brand, but are also participating in the conversation (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p 38). We can shape perception of a brand just by posting things ourselves. I have noticed by doing public relations for a few different brands that if I retweet or share content, my friends will see it and talk about it. This is the new form of word-of-mouth. Instead of telling your friends face-to-face, you’re sharing content with them. They, in turn, can easily share that content with all of their friends as well. This works almost better than word-of-mouth because you don’t have to worry about the “telephone effect”, where content gets disfigured and details get left out. The web is so interactive, and this makes brands personal and portable (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009, p 39).
I have noticed that I talk about Twitter way more than any other form of social media, even though it has been proven that more people are on Facebook than Twitter. Twitter is versatile and I like the conversation/thought aspect of it. You can so easily share content, which makes it perfect for public relations. You can also be anonymous, so Twitter may seem safer to people than Facebook for Pinterest. There’s a level of safety and openness on Twitter that there isn’t in other mediums. It might also be that I use Twitter more than I use anything else which is why I think that it will be around more than other forms.
I’ve also thought about how I could use social media in different classes. For my senior assignment, I’ve been working for Bonfyre, a start-up social media app in St. Louis, and creating Bonfyres for different classes in departments at SIUE. It has made me realize how much I would love to be able to communicate with people in my other classes outside of class as well. I like Bonfyre because it is very private. You do not have to share your number, your Facebook, your Twitter, or even your real name if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to have a picture! I do obviously, but it could help with privacy concerns. I have enjoyed using it in my classes because I can share content just to the people in my class rather than sharing it on Facebook which can become embarrassing for me or annoying for my friends. I think the thought of “narrowcasting” is a novel one and something that public relation professionals need to be on the lookout for in the future.