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October 21, 2009
PR Folks, Use Social Media or Perish

Here's a lengthy discussion of PR vs. social media by Chris Hogg, of Digital Journal, with PR being left in the dust. PR practitioners need to be responsive to critiques like this in the changing media environment.

They need to use social media techniques to connect with customers and build Web identity with them. This probably isn't news to alert PR folks, but when a commentary as incisive as this one comes along, it's worth extra attention.

To the extent that PR customers are paying for traditional media relations (why most PR firms are in business, as Hogg sees it), the odds of decent coverage are against them.

"... As e-mail inboxes fill up like landfills," Hogg writes, "that problem is compounded by the fact that many media organizations even lack the resources to cover the stories they find interesting or relevant."

So is it worth the expensive monthly retainer to secure a PR company just to educate the media about products when most of them don't cover it anyway? Much to the chagrin of my friends and acquaintances who work in PR, the simple fact is many public relations companies today are akin to the newspaper industry trying to exist in the Web age; the model is outdated and highly ineffective.

"So what's the solution?" Hogg continues. "While there is always a need for good PR at some level, companies who incorporate "social media relations" into the mix will see better results. Forward-thinking companies should have conversations with their audience and customers rather than talking at them.

"Social media relations is more effective than traditional PR simply because conversation and feedback can be channeled and encouraged. Social media relations is having conversations within a crowd, whereas public relations is akin to throwing paper airplanes into an audience and hoping someone catches a glimpse of it as it whizzes by."

He raises several questions all PR companies need to be aware of.

"Understanding social media is key because the Web has changed media consumption from a world of advertising to clients into a social conversation," Hogg says. "Pushing an ad out to a million eyeballs can be an effective way to bring people in, but what do you do with them once their on your site? What about the people who still have questions? What about those who have bad experiences?"

"If a company cannot answer those questions it means there is lost opportunity, and it's something public relations can't solve. The answer is social media relations."

Hogg goes on to make detailed points about the advantages of social media over PR. This is a piece not to be missed by PR people.



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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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