Spinning Social Media

July 7th, 2009

“Now P.R. gurus court influential voices on social Web to endorse new companies, Web sites or gadgets – a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley.”
“Spinning the Web – P.R. in Silicon Valley” The New York Times, July 4, 2009

Reporter Claire Cain Miller wrote this week that in terms of public relations, the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring. Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than a placement in a newspaper.

There were other assertions made by the reporter, which spawned a firestorm of critique by seasoned industry veterans. I turned a blind eye to the issues other professionals had with the article: “It was either this or that, either the tech bloggers or influencers or mainstream media,” said Todd Defren, principal at Shift Communications. True, public relations campaigns need to be more holistic than that.  But I found the commentary on the shift in the industry and importance of social media true and applicable.

Traditionally, public relations referred to media relations. When trying to reach a specific demographic or simply to reach many people at once, newspapers, magazines, television and radio news were great mechanisms for messaging. But if the ultimate goal is to interface with a certain population, the mainstay for most P.R., traditional media is no longer the only, or sometimes preferred, tool. The idea Ms. Miller writes about marries traditional tactics like outreach and culling spokespeople. With facebook groups, Twitter followers and blogs galore, public relations professionals, and those seeking the benefits of good P.R. have other avenues to explore to get their message out and identify brand ambassadors.

It’s perfectly feasible and very realistic to advise a client to focus on social media and shun older school (but still highly rewarding) story placements – it’s a low cost investment that could yield incredible results. These days, when something goes viral on the Web, the mainstream, traditional media will follow.

Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L), the international communications agency where I began my PR career out of college, just announced this week that it is launching a social media and digital influencer management tool. A sign of things to come, for sure.

When I first began in P.R. six years ago, the mantra was to get the print coverage, and the broadcast interest will follow. The TV’s read the front page each morning like (increasingly shrinking numbers of) regular folk. Today seeking social media and a viral loop around the Internet, can be a very smart first move. If you get the momentum of the Web, the traditional press will follow.

Posted Under: Public Relations
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