How to Leverage Social Media for Public Relations Success: Part I
Social Media: The Essential Toolkit for Public Relations
With the introduction of social media, businesses have found and developed novel ways of communicating with their publics. Similarly, Public Relations Practitioners are using social media every day; be it to communicate with their customers normally or as a crisis response as highlighted by Cecilia in the BP Oil Crisis Case Study. The growth and potential of social media cannot be ignored as highlighted in my previous post on Asia’s Social Media Growth and it is without a doubt that social media has now become an important tool in any PR pro’s toolkit.
“Social media is a great tool for public relations people, especially if you align it to both PR goals and figure out what the ROI is for the client or the company”
Source: Bronze Magazine
Why Social Media Participation is Critical for PR
The world is already talking about products, brands and companies. The rise of social media serves as another platform for people to talk about it. The major benefit that social media lends to a PR professional can be summed in two words: “Think Big”.
The introduction of social media gave rise and meaning to the term “viral”, which means that communicated messages have the potential to spread from individual to individuals, where successful social media campaigns can gain international coverage. The social media network allows for brands to effectively tap upon another individual’s network, creating a cascading effect that leads to the dissemination of the communicated message to a wider network.
One key advantage that social media lends to the practitioner is the effectiveness of a two-way dialogue between the brand and the individual consumer. It opens up a new perspective on how brands can target markets down to the individual in their campaigns.
This is in stark contrast to the traditional media model of information dissemination, where messages are published on print media before distribution to an audience. The issue with this is that the distribution of the print media is localized within the intended regions and the reach of the messages becomes affected due to such limitations. This asymmetrical mode of communication also meant that consumers had little means to provide feedback over certain actions taken by the brand and conversation within the audience was simply ignored, which meant that customer engagement is lacking in the traditional media model of communication.
Social media has essentially revolutionized how brands communicate with their audience and more importantly, due to the personal interaction between brand and individual, brands can slowly shed off their corporate presence to one which has a humane face that the individual can relate with. Conversations can now be monitored by the practitioner to understand consumer sentiment towards the brand and allow for follow-up actions in lieu of possibly damaging conversations.
Considerations for Social Media Participation
While social media is indeed a boon for the practitioner, it remains as a double-edged sword if not handled carefully. With the introduction of a two-way conversational dialogue, negative conversations are as frequent as positive conversations and brands can only maintain a certain degree of control over the conversational flow.
As flagged out by Cecilia in the BP Oil Crisis Case Study, the response time between the crisis and remedial actions taken has been drastically reduced with the introduction of social media. The consumer of today wants accurate and fast updates and if the brand fails to provide, then they look to the next source of information. Should the brand fail to grasp for control over the conversation flow in a social network, it explodes into what is popularly termed as a public relations crisis which has potentially more damaging consequences than the actual crisis on hand.
In my next post, we will identify how social media can be effectively used to generate media coverage. Want to receive the next update? Follow us on Twitter!