In the early days of social media, brands and their PR firms were mostly concerned only with getting fans or followers for the sake of appearance. But as social media has become an integral part of the way consumers shop, ask for recommendations and interact with companies, that approach has shifted significantly. We take a look at some of the ways social media has (and still is) changing the realm of Public Relations forever.
Public Relations has become a two-way conversation:
Everyone’s a critic… but on social media, every critic potentially has a big voice. On the flip side, someone who’s influential on social media who really likes your brand can become a powerful force too.
For many years, companies tried to deal with complaints and issues as quietly and privately as possible. Social media has made that all but impossible. And while the natural instinct for some PR representatives or firms is still to try and take the conversation offline, the best results may come from doing the opposite.
Companies that use social media to publically and transparently deal with complaints and turn an unhappy customer’s experience around can boost the image of the entire brand.
Another advantage is that when a customer is being truly unreasonable, yet the brand is still going out of their way to try and fix the problem anyway, it’s not you who ends up looking foolish! Customers will sympathize and side with a brand that’s keeping their cool.
Failing to respond to complaints on social media at all, of course, is not going to inspire trust in potential new customers.
PR firms can get near-instant feedback on their campaigns
With ‘traditional’ PR media like TV, press and radio campaigns, it could take days to get a trickle of feedback from the public. Worse, an expensive campaign might be met with a stony wall of silence!
In the social media age, if you’re going to get a response, it’s probably going to happen very quickly indeed. If you’ve hit the nail on the head, you’re going to know about it almost straight away. By encouraging feedback and engaging with social media users who liked your message, an inspiring campaign can start to grow into something really amazing all by itself.
The same applies, unfortunately, if you’ve totally missed the mark and there’s going to be a backlash! This means that PR representatives need to be able to react a whole lot faster than in the past. Aside from just anticipating potential questions and concerns, they need to be able to quickly gauge the mood and think on their feet to come up with a good response. Social media means that even smaller brands need a solid crisis management strategy in place.
Social media has made PR available to the masses
In the past, PR was something only big firms, international brands and government institutions had to worry about. PR campaigns tended to be slow-moving, far-reaching, and expensive. Now, thanks to the ability to target small groups of individuals (either geographically or by other demographics like gender and age) PR campaigns don’t have to be expensive. This means that small companies, e-commerce brands, and startups can all get in on the action.
The savvy social media users of today barely even register to message that doesn’t clearly and obviously apply to them. Combined with the highly targeted nature of the modern PR campaign, this also means that social media has…
Blurred the lines between marketing and PR
Previously, marketing was all about making more sales, while the PR department dealt with brand reputation. And while digital PR still tries to deal with a brand’s rep on a slightly larger scale than marketing might, there’s now enormous overlap between the two.
Industry leaders, social media influencers and potential customers alike will all be visiting the same social media pages when they check out your company. Not only does this mean marketers and PR reps need to work together to ensure a cohesive message and image, it means each element can help reinforce the other.
A great example is a PR campaign that showcases a brand’s commitment to a cause or charity. Coupled with a marketing drive (each time you buy our product, you’re also supporting this cause, for example) this kind of campaign can boost sales and brand reputation all in one.
Focus on individual customers
Whether it’s dealing with a complaint from one customer or a larger movement among your target audience, social media is all about giving individuals a platform. Brands that use social media to make their customers feel truly heard, acknowledging the validity of their experiences, will always see the best results.