Has Social Media Fundamentally Changed Public Relations?

The spinning blade of a table saw cutting wood...

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After reading this Platform Magazine article, I wondered about the question the author poses.

“Has social media fundamentally changed the field of public relations?”

Her primary sources both make great points, but I think it is an interesting discussion to be had.

For the answer to this question I think we must first look at the definition of public relations which, according to the Public Relations Society of America  is:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Social media seeks to improve, foster and create relationships among others. In a corporate setting, social media could be categorized as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Applying the definition in this way further emphasizes the fact that social media is a tool to be used in conjunction with other tools to achieve the overall strategy and objective.

In the same article, one source said that social media has changed the industry because professionals are thinking about social media from step one. They are writing their press releases for the web first, not necessarily for a specific journalist.  Although this is a change, it doesn’t mark a fundamental change in PR. It is an example of simply refocusing writing based on audience.

Another thing that might help us answer this question is a list my professor gave us in class this week. She attended a professional conference where one of the speakers gave a list of 10 things the PR professional of 2015 must have.  Over half of them were related to social media.

This too emphasizes the importance of social media as a tool. Having a table saw is great, but for it to be effective, someone needs to be able to use it. Of course PR professionals of 2015 need to know how to connect with bloggers. Of course they need to know how to run and interpret analytics as well as use feed readers. Knowing these things now is as essential as knowing how to pitch to a journalist and acquire and cut clips was thirty years ago.

Social media has not caused a fundamental change in PR; instead,  it has caused a fundamental change in tools for PR.

Agree or Disagree?

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3 responses to “Has Social Media Fundamentally Changed Public Relations?

  1. I like your choice of using it as tools! Social media has changed the way we go about things in the PR world. Has it changed PR in general? No. Public relations main goal is to build those mutually beneficial relationships with the public. With social media such as Facebook and Twitter pr specialists now have more outlets to use rather than just a plain press release. I’m excited to see more changes come in the future.

  2. Oh it is definitely a tool. It is amazing that it is such a powerful tool and it can be so cost effective as well. It is a good thing that us up and coming PR professionals have grown up with social media and it is not something that we are having to adjust to and change our ways with.

  3. I agree! The purpose of public relations is the same, but the way to achieve it has been shaped. Anyway, it’s inevitable because as technology evolves, so does communication. It’s funny because I have just written a post about it. If you’d like to check it out, follow this link: http://bit.ly/PrpjJ8. Basically, my research has shown me that organisations had failed using social media because they were using it as they used mass media, without considering people’s needs. Therefore, I describe motivations for people to use social media and how it matches the two-way symmetry model pf PR.

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