Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring how social media is transforming the way we do business across a range of industries. Today, we’ve chosen to look at how the Public Relations industry has undergone a radical change in the last few years, since the emergence and widespread adoption of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
It’s not the first time the PR industry has had to adapt to a new way of doing business. I recall a Senior PR Director who took pleasure in telling each fresh batch of interns how he relied on the humble fax machine to send press releases at the start of his career (presumably, before then they relied on carrier pigeons). For years the rolodex was a PR executive’s best friend, before it was eventually replaced by the PDA. Now the A-Z of contacts and professional appointments, synchronized across multiple devices, fits snugly into your smartphone.
Being creative as well as tactical is what drives PR success. For this reason, the PR industry has always been at the forefront in terms of responding to technological advances and experimenting with new tools and techniques to generate ever improved results.
We caught up with two very busy PR professionals and asked them how social media is impacting their profession and how social listening is helping them to monitor and react to the latest news concerning their clients in real-time.
What are you doing now as a PR practitioner that you couldn’t do five years ago, before the explosion of social media?
Neil O’Gorman: Communications has changed beyond recognition in recent years and for the better in my view. While much commentary tends to focus on the challenges and risks in a world where control is no longer possible, the flip side is there are now boundless opportunities to listen, understand and engage with audiences and create advocates and communities – something which can be a powerful enabler for brands and organisations.
I believe that PR has for the most part operated in a vacuum for way too long and has not been as well integrated into the communications strategies of brands and organisations as it could and should have been. That is changing. Why? Because as the world – consumers, businesses, organisations – lives more and more online, our ability to uniquely reach key audiences is being challenged by a new competitor set – digital agencies, social agencies, media buying and ad agencies. However, now we can listen, understand, tweak, influence and measure like never before. So, we have a chance every day to use our unique skill set – creating understanding, awareness and affinity across the influential earned media and social spaces – in ways that really add value. A key challenge remains striking a balance between listening and doing and not just navigating our way through the unprecedented clutter and noise, but helping clients do likewise and adding clarity in the fog.
How has social media impacted the PR practitioner’s role, in your view?
Bernice Burnside: Social media has changed the role of the PR practitioner hugely. Not only has our job become a lot more demanding but we need to be able to move faster and think quicker than ever before.
The ‘Golden 24 hours’ within which a company needed and was expected to respond to issues has become the ‘Golden Hour’, with the arrival of Twitter and Facebook and the 24 hour news cycle. We’ve taken multi-tasking to a whole new level – while monitoring a breaking news story on Twitter so that our client can offer commentary, we might also be editing a blog post due to go live for another, while taking a call from a journalist who has just noticed another client announcement on Linkedin.
Coffee becomes your best friend and you invest most of your hard earned money in what you now consider the best invention ever – a good bed!