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How PR has evolved in the age of social media

Zeina Akkawi/dubai
Filed on October 21, 2017
How PR has evolved in the age of social media
Prior to the digital blast, if a person wanted to be famous, they were promised coverage by their agency to make them what they want in print and other mediums.

(Alamy.com/ae)

The success of a campaign is measured by the number of blog posts, retweets and Instagram comments it gathers online

Influencing, impacting and effecting are words we hear a lot today in the media industry. What are they all about?

As public relation (PR) agencies, we are now asked not only to generate coverage for brands and organisations, but to also build relationships that influence behaviour and this is where digital media comes into play.

Many have written about the changing nature of PR and its move from traditional coverage, celebrities and ambassadors to influencers who have enormous reach and are trusted within social, demographic or value-driven networks.

Public relations has always focused on delivering the right image, messaging, reputation, cohesive marketing communication, RoI, strategic communication and CSR projects.

Most experts following these rules have services that are limited to media and media relations, and they passionately believe that publicity will always produce a good outcome. But today, the PR views are changing and agencies see digital media as a revolutionary power that is changing the way the public is reacting to campaigns and disrupting the way agencies practise PR.

Social media, on the other hand, has transformed to become a support and is changing the way PR campaigns are distributed and measured.
PR, unfortunately, is getting perceived as an old marketing method that has relied on the same tactics for a long while and that's been only measured by the number of coverages and RoI. Let's admit it; prior to the digital blast, everything was print-based. It was all about securing coverage. If a person wanted to be famous, they were promised coverage by their agency to make them what they want in print, TV, radio and other mediums. The success of a PR campaign today is no longer measured by the weight of clippings it has achieved, but by the number of blog posts, conversations, comments, retweets, Instagram comments, etc., it gathers online. From traditional practices, our industry has evolved rapidly to accommodate constant change and new digital tools, creating opportunities for new campaigns.

The growth of digital marketing also has many consequences on media agencies which are now in search of unique and engaging content. This, in return, has transformed the role of PR and made it more challenging to create interesting and appealing content. Successful PR campaigns are now increasingly dependent on their ability to create content that people want to share and talk about online; so this has forced PR agencies to work and focus a lot more on new channels and to be more open to things, not only in terms of measurement but also in relation to deliverables, promoting better marketing tools with better outcome.

We can't deny that social media offers new channels of communication between companies, brands and the public. It doesn't only offer an opportunity for direct and instant communication, but also a chance to get back to the ideal basics of public relations - building and maintaining relationships and changing some of the negative perceptions associated with our industry.

Digital has become an innovative tool that has quickly changed the way PR companies practise their deliverables; but it doesn't mean PR has died. It's a platform that has become an important part for many companies in helping PR experts to explore new areas to research and use tools that can be integrated within their existing PR practices.

I still believe, though, there is an amazing link between both practices (PR and digital) that can make a brand more powerful and play an important part in the market. We just need to know how to use it and sell it.

On the other hand, most of the social media can be a waste of time. It's a great platform to post photos, announce opinions, like, comment, unfollow and follow harmless endeavours. Social media can void hours, if not days, out of our work, time and energy. Using this method for PR professionals and entrepreneurs can be useful for connecting brands on the web with other new customers.

Mixing social media with press releases is beneficial. When writing down any news, it's good to find a way to extend the message via online platforms. This will help a lot since journalists nowadays rely heavily on Twitter to source, monitor and research stories. So, by sharing a story online, professionals can reach them instead of interrupting their inbox constantly.

Creating online campaigns around some case studies is another format; where most of the PR agencies build case studies or infographics to highlight successes and build credibility. While some stories make a good write-up, most people aren't willing to invest their time to read long forms of articles. Instead of sharing the full study on social media, picking out the key facts from the success story and highlighting those will make a difference.

Social media also offers a major way to offer expert observation and make an immediate impact on the audience. Press releases might take time to reach readers and most likely to miss some opportunities here and there. So in support to print news, online can be of an assistance.

Example, in the case of breaking news or crisis management, executives must proceed with caution to ensure they are adding value online to the conversation and not being completely egotistic or trying to exploit on a catastrophe.

The writer is managing director at PAZ Marketing. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.


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