Public relations and social media: most excellent bedfellows?

by Steve Seager on May 30, 2009 . Views: 13

The PRSA just blogged their pitch to say public relations is best placed to manage social media initiatives. Their post is in relation to the fact a handful of people are shouting about the death of public relations in social media.

I think the PRSA are missing an important point here. 90% of the clients I speak with equate public relations with media relations. Media relations is something the pr industry as a whole has pushed very hard for many years – and it doesn’t add a great deal of value in social media. The pundits I hear sounding the death knell for public relations are actually referring to this.

Even though I am very sceptical of the esteemed Don Wright’s claims that 70% of social media campaigns are being driven by public relations professionals (maybe he just doesn’t get spammed or ‘interrupted’ enough by annoying marketers and advertisers on social media to know better just yet?) the post does have some great points.

With acknowledgement to their inspiration, here’s my thoughts as to why public relations and social media are most excellent bedfellows:

  • Social media is not about technology. It is about connecting people. Public relations is about building relationships with people.
  • Social media is about sharing and distributing meaningful content. Public relations is about finding ways to use information to develop relationships.
  • Social media is about ‘people like me’. Trust is key. Public relations is about building trust via credible sources and information.
  • Social media is about participation not interruption. Public relations is about finding mutually beneficial ways for people and businesses to engage with each other.
  • Social media is about ‘them’, not ‘you’. Understanding your stakeholder needs is at the heart of Public relations.

Anyone else see the value in public relations as the right core approach for social media? Or are pr agencies buggered and digital agencies will win out? Who would you trust to help you engage with customers and stakeholders online?

  • Great post. Yes, its all about buiding relationships and the channel has changed.New PR has to also realize that their audience now creates and disseminates content.PR pros have to listen and engage in conversation like never before to engage and empower their social media stakeholders.

  • Absolutely agree with your points, Steve. Publicity, despite common perceptions, does not equal public relations; it’s disconcerting that pundits and clients continue to get that wrong, which in turn gives rise to ridiculous predictions of PR’s demise. That “publicity” in the conventional sense doesn’t add a great deal in social media only reinforces the points that (1) public relations will continue to gain as social media provides opportunities to build relationships in new ways, and as companies seek guidance on effective and credible ways to leverage the new tools and (2) public relations professionals are best suited to manage a company’s social media efforts.
    Arthur Yann is vice president of public relations for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)

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