Digital Chameleons: Public Relations in Social Media


Hallowed tradition dictates the domains of public relations (PR) and marketing are clearly delineated, with a borderline that is sacrosanct and not to be contested. Yet in today’s digital business paradigm that demarcation is being ever-increasingly blurred. Both promotional and communicative strategies are trending toward the myriad social media, whose own provinces require a shift in the exemplars of both disciplines. Brand ownership now lies in the hands and minds of the consumer, and marketing as well as PR must bend to the will of the buyer. Just as the halcyon days of unlimited budgeting without need for metric relevance are a thing of the past, so too are presumptions of the reins of brand ownership being held by the firm’s top management.

If you aren’t fond of the current state of social media, wait a week or so; it’ll change.

Two of the top challenges facing firms in their digital communications and social media campaigns relative to PR are buy-in at the executive level and a need to optimally manage the messaging interactions through online channels.


Buy-in at the executive level has been a particularly knotty problem for some industries, perhaps most notably for the field of journalism. Consumers have little faith in the corporate voice, choosing instead to place their confidence in fellow customers. The prescriptions of spin doctors are viewed with a jaundiced eye in the marketplace, and rulings in communication channels are in a state of flux. It is therefore of little wonder why top management has been reticent to adopt the modern media venues.

It therefore falls to a new brand of administrator to manage the strategic campaigns of corporate communications. Areas of concern in tactical planning and the concomitant tasks for executive oversight include procedural outlining, working with associates, technology assessment and choice, systematizing and structuring of social media messages and communications, problem solving and analytics assessment. These spheres of influence have lately become the responsibilities of PR professionals.

We have to stop talking at customers and start talking with them.

Social media adoption has been highly influential on both accounts. The necessity of dialogue with the purchasing public has changed PR messaging from a broadcast archetype into a model which is more conversational, from a one-way communications standard into a two-way paradigm in which information is shared with the prospective consumers vs issued to them.


While complete acceptance by all stakeholders has yet to be realized, use of social media as the primary communications channel by PR professionals is slowly being adopted and the benefits derived from the approach are being realized on a widespread basis. Time will be needed, however, before the transition from traditional to digital media strategies are complete.

Do you agree that the landscape has changed in both PR and marketing as a result of social media adoption? We’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below. If you think others in your social graph would be interested, please share this content – simply choose your preferred social media channel from the buttons provided.

And we invite you to join us again next week for another incursion into the business applications of social media and Web 2.0 here on Grannelle.

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About Grannelle

eMarketing Scholar
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