How social media changed public relations

Nov 6, 2017
How social media changed public relations

With a global usership in the billions, social media has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

Its influence is simply too large to ignore.

And while social media has touched just about every industry under the sun in some capacity, it has had a huge, and arguably more pointed, impact on the public relations industry.

From changing the way people consume their news to contributing to the rise of the citizen journalist, social media has forced PR pros and reporters to adapt in the digital age or perish.

Here are five key ways social media has impacted the PR industry and why it’s essential for all professional communicators to get on board.

1. The lifespan of a news story is shorter than it used to be (but has the power to spread far and wide)

Social media is immediate and noisy. How noisy? Roughly 6,000 tweets are shared per second (per second!) on Twitter. And that’s just one of many social networks.

(Although, Muck Rack’s research tells us journalists love using Twitter -- just check out our 2017 journalist survey for proof.)

While that makes social media a highly effective tool for communicating breaking news coverage, it also means the lifespan of a news story is much shorter than it used to be. This means that journalists are constantly searching for the next big thing and PR pros need to keep up with their turnaround time.

However, even though the lifespan of a story may be shorter, social media has the power to take a story further than ever before. Thanks to social media, an article in a small local publication in the middle of the country may go viral online, spreading globally, and becoming the next big story.

2. Crisis communications has become even more crucial

As if PR pros needed another thing keeping them awake at night, social media has provided a whole new way for brands to mess up big time in front of their audience if they aren’t careful.

Beyond scheduling media interviews and pitching stories, PR professionals are now responsible for managing brand voice and protecting the online reputation via the publication and promotion of additional content, community engagement, media monitoring and measurement.

Failure of PR pros to monitor social media for brand mentions and have a plan in place for responding to customer feedback (both good and bad) could mean a missed opportunity at best (remember the Red Lobster-Beyonce faux pas from early 2016?) or a full-scale crisis at worst (we’re looking at you, United Airlines).

3. PR pros have increased access to journalists

Social media helps PR pros get closer than ever to reporters. By following a journalist on social media, PR pros can gain insight into a reporter’s tone of voice, opinions on relevant topics and recent work.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should drop all other responsibilities and spend 40+ hours a week sifting through Twitter. Instead use a tool like Muck Rack to find publications and journalists that meet your criteria and get instantly connected with their recent tweets and social media profiles.

While social media can be a great place to research reporters and make connections, it’s not a good idea to tweet or direct message your pitch directly to a reporter unless their bio explicitly indicates to do so.

4. PR pros may find themselves in the customer-service trenches more than ever before

As mentioned above, social media is immediate.

This means that social media users expect an immediate response from brands when they have a concern, complaint or question.

Although the primary responsibility for most PR pros is still to secure media placements for their client or company, they’ve had to shift their focus to be much more customer-centric.

Building your brand community on social is now just as important as snagging that interview for your CEO, possibly even more so depending on your industry.

5. Social has introduced a whole new branch of media: influencers

Social media hasn’t just provided an outlet for professionally-trained journalists to share breaking news; it’s also brought about a new type of citizen journalist: the influencer.

From a beauty vlogger with 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube to a travel blogger with 175k followers on Instagram, influencers are considered one of the best ways to attract new customers to a brand.

Consider the fact that 71% of American consumers say they are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. Pretty powerful, right?

More than ever, these social media influencers with high follower counts could mean big opportunities for PR professionals and the brands they represent.

Social media growth shows no sign of slowing down and it’s up to PR professionals to adapt their strategy or get left behind.
What other ways has social media changed the public relations industry? Let us know on Twitter.

Curious to learn more about how Muck Rack can help you improve your public relations success? We’d love to tell you more.

Jessica Lawlor is the features editor for the Muck Rack blog and handles PR and social media for Muck Rack.

Photo via Pixabay

About the author

CEO at JL&Co. Founder of the #GetGutsy blog. Managing editor at @thewritelife & @muckrack. @templeuniv adjunct, alum & @templewomen founder. Yoga teacher.

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