How Social Media Has Changed Public Relations

Social Media's Impact on Public Relations_Blog

By Rachel Peck

It’s no secret the way we communicate, market and interact with the public has changed drastically over the past few years. People no longer consume media the same way they did even five years ago. With such monumental shifts in the way we interact with each other, and how brands interact with audiences, the impact has been felt in every corner of the communications world – including public relations. Below are a few ways social media has changed the public relations landscape.

The window of opportunity for relevant news is smaller
With news breaking every few minutes, the timeframe for news impact and consumer digestion has grown smaller. Brand news is competing with a constant stream of updating information and the pressure to cut through the clutter is greater than ever. While the moment for impact is narrow, the chance for engagement is higher. Thanks to social media, news has the ability to reach audiences previously unavailable and professionals can rely on their audiences to disseminate the information for them.

Increased brand influence in popular culture
Share culture has helped increase reach and engagement and many brands have used social media platforms to create viral campaigns. Social media also gives brands an opportunity to engage and connect with audiences through culturally relevant topics. In 2018, when a popular TV show character died in a house fire allegedly caused by a faulty Crock-Pot, the manufacturers created a Twitter account dedicated to proving it’s innocence – an example of a brand’s ability to take control of an outside narrative and become part of current popular culture. 

You can interact with news outlets
Leveraging social media as a touch point with journalists and news organizations has become increasingly important over the past few years. On top of their regular reporting responsibilities, many journalists also maintain a strong presence on platforms such as Twitter. Once news is published online, it can be shared on the various platforms, where brands have the opportunity to engage with publications, as well as foster a relationship with them through social media. Brands have the ability to connect with journalists and publications, as well as leverage the influencer market.

It’s easier for negative news to travel fast
Higher engagement and increased customer interaction have had positive impacts, but public relations professionals must also be aware of the impact of social media on crisis communications. Good news travels fast – bad news travels faster. Social media has only increased the chances for consumers to leave reviews, or publicly call brands out. A recent example includes Macy’s food portion plates, which caused the retailer to face public backlash. In less than a day the company pulled the product and issue an apology. While social media allows for brands to engage with disgruntled consumers and have a dialogue with them, it can also make brand mistakes more visible.

Beyond sending out press releases, it’s critical that public relations professionals integrate social media marketing tactics into their strategies. Public relations has become a more holistic and comprehensive field, due to social media. Having a presence on social media is a must for companies, as it’s often the first interaction consumers will have with a brand.

The old saying goes “Advertising you pay for, PR you pray for,” but today, professionals no longer have to rely on the hope their press release is picked up. Social media has allowed PR professionals to become news creators and given them a larger platform and more opportunities to market brands.