The Role of Social Media in PR

In my latest blog post, I discussed my personal opinion on how I use social media and my interpreted uses within today’s society.  In this post, I am going to take the opportunity to discuss an aspect of social media that I haven’t yet covered, and that is its role in the Public Relations field.  Social media has created a new public platform for users to state their opinion of a brand or product.

The social media platform is one that has various benefits to anyone that is interested in boosting the public presence of any product, organization, or movement.  First of all, maintaining an account that promotes something at the most basic level is free of charge.  Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer free pages that make spreading brand related content as easy as a clicking ‘retweet’ or ‘like.’  This is very useful to organizations with a small advertising/Public Relations budget.

They also have a unique ability of garnering a very specific audience.  Other users that follow or like a brand can be easily exposed to promotions or brand related information.  Since the users have already decided to like or follow the page, they obviously have some sort of interest in what is being promoted.  This essentially means that any information that this organization puts out via social media will reach who it is intended for.

However, social media websites can often times harm an organizations image if said organization handles it wrong.  This is an easy trap to fall into because the PR field is still trying to perfect the science of PR in the new field social media.  There is no decorum that has been set in stone when it comes to handling PR related issues on the web, and everything must be well planned, or disaster may ensue.  Deirdre Breakenridge from PRNews says it best by emphasizing that, “Like anything else in PR, strategic planning is necessary to create a communication program with the required elements for success; it’s the planning process that allows you to reach your goals and objectives. Planning creates the road map for you to achieve a winning initiative,” (Breakenridge, 2013)

For instance, a recent example of poor PR planning was the Chick-Fil-A disaster that occurred in the summer of 2010.  Chick-Fil-A had then come out stating that they were a ‘family’ business that opposed the idea of gay marriage.  Needless to say, this warranted a barrage of unhappy tweets and Facebook messages; as eating a chicken sandwich had become a political statement of some sorts.  For some reason, the PR firm that managed this crisis found it to be a good idea to create Facebook profiles defending the company (granted, this is speculation — Chick-Fil-A has publicly denied using any fake profiles).  One profile was a teenage girl who seemed just a little bit too enthusiastic in her defense of Chik-Fil-A to not be affiliated with the cooperation.  As the internet has proven to us over and over again, never underestimate the power and intelligence of its users.  One user uncovered that the profile had been created a mere eight hours prior to a post defending the brand, and that her profile picture was a stock photograph.  Melissa Agnes, a digital crisis manager, had a lot to say about this issue.  On her website she states that, “Social media is based on truth and transparency, and when it comes to the Internet nothing stays buried long. When you’re caught in such an attempt – and odds are you most definitely will get caught – you will pay for your schemes ten fold” (Agnes).

Works Cited

Breakenridge, D. (2013). Social media and public relations begin with strategic planning. PRNews, Retrieved from http://www.prnewsonline.com/topics/pr-insiders/2013/08/22/social-media-and-public-relations-begin-with-strategic-planning/

Agnes, M. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.melissaagnescrisismanagement.com/5-lessons-to-learn-from-chick-fil-as-social-media-crisis/

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