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Using Social Media to Convert Public Relations

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 3556 words Published: 21st Mar 2019

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“Can social media help convert public relations as mostly publicity to public relations as mostly relationships? Discuss.”

This essay will discuss whether social media can help convert public relations from mostly being about gaining/gathering publicity to public relations being mostly about relationships.

Who, where, what, when and why? Traditional PR was all about getting the right message, to the right people at the right time via a singular message delivered via mass media (press, TV, radio). The current multi-channel, multi-device digital landscape has changed this so much more flexibility and adaptability is required of online communications. There has never been a time of more opportunity to increase your brand/company awareness online but  customer relations also needs careful management preferably by a dedicated social media team.

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It is debatable whether a company or the general public (consumers) have more power and influence over its image. On the one hand it can be argued that the consumer has more power and influence for example Pret opened a pop-up vegan restaurant which was influenced by the large (growing) vegan food movement (in the general public) and Pret then changed the menu to more vegan-friendly offerings, also Starbucks was influenced by consumer opinions/views to move away from basic coffee offerings to more artisan coffee offerings. Michael Kors was also influenced by consumer opinions/views to move away from offering basic handbags. Irn Bru’s recipe change (they are reducing sugar content following government guidelines) is causing large upset amongst customers.

Brand reputation is (to a certain extent) important in influencing consumer opinion and behaviour so it is important to cultivate/nurture customer relationships online. Unethical companies will get fined and shamed for example Canada Geese and Starbucks. Luxury brands such as Rolex watches are seen as a status symbol and are aspirational lifestyle items. Celebrities influence people to make choices/decisions online (so good PR would be to attract relationships with celebrities and other influencers). If things go wrong online then the brand reputation is somewhat destroyed but big companies such as Amazon do have large resilience to PR mistakes. Lush is a handmade cosmetics company which is vegan and not tested on animals which has become massive now as a movement. Cars such as Jaguar, Porsche and Ferrari are iconic and a massive status symbol for people to own. Interestingly, Body Shop have been brought by L’Oreal (seen as unethical by some) and Innocent Smoothies have been brought by Coca Cola (the largest soft drinks manufacturer in the world- and in some ways a long way from the small-time ethical community-minded spirit of Innocent!). Millennial’s care greatly about ethics. Although celebrities are good to project your PR message online and promote your company there are recent examples of massive misfires by companies online. For example, there was a huge backlash over Kylie Jenner’s Black Lives Matter Pepsi ad and also over the racism from H&M when a white child wore a “King of the Jungle/Survival Expert” jumper and the black child wore a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” jumper.

Social media influencers/bloggers are influential over time and this requires time and effort in terms of electronic PR. Pew De Pie (YouTuber) lost sponsorship over ill-advised anti-Semitic comments and child pornography comments. Blockbuster video did not change with the times rapidly enough and Netflix came in and now it is no longer in business. Brewdog (craft beer maker) has become really large and obsessed by KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and it does outrageous things and over the top things just for publicity and attention. At Redbull and Brewdog you will not be hired if you turn up to an interview for example which is unnecessary in my opinion, but may be seen as trendy by some others. TripAdvisor has a big influence over a companies’ image because customer ratings and reviews easily enhance or harm a companies’ image.  A local example is a garden centre in Inverurie started selling animal furs and there were massive protests and also there were boycotts threatened when Irn Bru announced it was changing its recipe (because people are anti-sweetener). Also- Irn Bru is now made/brewed in England in Milton Keynes but is most commonly associated (and mostly available) in Scotland. On balance then, companies have more power and influence over their image because they have the means (time, money, manpower) to manipulate their image to the outside world. A word of caution is perhaps we are in some ways too gullible because there are stories of Chinese and Indian bots making fake reviews and ratings on TripAdviser so maybe do not trust everything you see online so online PR should be about creating valid/real messages online so that the company/organisation can be seen as trustworthy, dependable and reliable.

Grunig, J.E. & Chun-ju Flora Hung-Baesecke (2015, p71) believe that relationships cannot be qualified a value in purely monetary terms (like in the past with traditional PR) as it is indefinable and indescribable as it is more of a feeling (opinions and views) nowadays. (2015,P76) they conclude that a reputation is composed of a combination of the entire amount of the knowledge and views and opinions of every influential body. (2015, p78) Reputations are flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and situations socially, publically, economically and politically. (2015, p92) It is far from clear-cut about company perceptions and the results are mixed and show that even with a good reputation a company can be recollected for bad things and vice versa so online PR must be carefully planned and organised for valuable results. (2015, p105) “. The more energetic and active you are about talking and speaking about a company the more inclined you are to have brain representations of the company, to recollect positive and negative actions and to state fulfilment and maybe disappointment with services and items. The less energetic and active you are about talking and speaking about a company the more regularly you will think of shallow and obvious brain representations of the company such as explanatory elements, internal and external staff, or other items/things connected to the company.

Gruing and Baesecke (2015, p107) come up with a number of results/recommendations/suggestions which are: PR staff who are concerned with defending or increasing in a positive way the status/standing, and the associations, of the companies they are in they should achieve this by actively engaging in the planned organised procedures of the company so that they can have a possible authority on the company actions selected by the people in charge. The conventional method of stating predetermined statements after actions are taken would have a marginal consequence on both standing/status or associations. In evaluation and reflection this author recommends that PR staff should centre their attention on associations as a gauge of equally the importance and significance and accomplishment of their efforts. The authors study’s conclusions also recommend that PR actions have an increased academic and experimental relationship to associations than to standing/status, and that associations ought to be the centre of attention of assessment studies in PR.

T.Kelleher (2015, p281) examines the role of PR in the current digital landscape of the explosion of Social Media usage. In the past they were concerned with mass-perception and views and opinions and communicating a standardised message to a wide varied and diverse population. Nowadays, social media has shifted the focus to more individualised and personalised communication.  And thus PR has changed its focus also. (P283-p286)- to answer this essay question I must first examine what is meant by the term Social Media. There is considerable scholarly debate better how best to define this term but mostly scholars agree there is a distinct and definite difference between  Social Media and the days of old mass communication. P288- The increasing sophistication and progress in tools and techniques have reduced expenditure for storing and preparing items of use and making the account/record of person-to-person discussions and business deals easier to find by web search engines. P290- Social media has made the wide expanse of the globe smaller by breaking down barriers to communication and making communication between far off places easier and with a greater sense of closeness. (2015, p296-297) .” Put customers first when thinking about a PR strategy and you will be rewarded with consumer conviction, confidence, approval, agreement, dedication/loyalty, and organisational help and support as related results.  P297- Social media usage is a double-edged sword and  must be carefully managed and controlled to get your company or organisation your desired outcome as it is easy to damage reputations online and in the current mass-use landscape of social media this can have a massive affect for your company. P298- There are pros and cons to Social media usage in PR but it is vital/essential to change with the times and also we need to think internally and externally when using social media for PR activities.

Solis and Breakenridge (2009, p37) concur and agree that companies need to be on Social Media- PR cannot survive if it doesn’t have the faith of those who believe and authorize us with the trademark/brand name of the organisation we stand for. PR is changing, and to continue on we have much intelligence gathering and paying attention to do. Interaction/associations should still be at the heart/core of PR. P201- Ignore social media as a company/organisation at your peril – dive right in and get involved- be where the people are! D.L Wilcox and G.T. Cameron (2014) also agree that PR needs to change and adapt but stay true to good ethical behaviour.

I.Nee and C.Burmann (2016) in their study of hotel reviews and ratings say that (p195-) Companies/organsations increasingly realise the importance of responding to and controlling/mitigating online ratings and reviews by way of a professional, polite and well-considered constructive response to negative criticism. This is especially important as people nowadays have a wide variety and diversity of places to vent their good and bad feedback and if you are a small business and unprofessional response can be truly damaging to your custom and takings. This is also supported by A.Charlesworth (2014, p323) who argues that integrated online communications are making companies much more publically transparent and open to ratings and reviews. In my opinion I believe this is a good thing because this means companies/organisations can now be held responsible for their actions in a direct easier way and then they can develop, improve and grow with time based on real-time data from the customers using their services, buying their products- this is why it is essential for public relations to move online and use Social Media.

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Views and opinions online have never been so prolific and significant and powerful    and there is even a new area of study specifically to look at this online (see F.A.POZZI et al., 2016 for more detail) . Sentiment analysis (which is the process of electronically recognising and classifying views articulated in a portion/section of passage/wording, predominantly/principally in order to establish whether the writer’s position towards a particular subject, theme, item for consumption, etc. is affirmative, pessimistic, or nonaligned) is an emerging field of study and is especially important currently where there have never been more opportunities to engage via social media and on a variety of platforms such as YouTube or Twitter using a variety of multimedia tools such as images or video. R.Deiss, R and R. Henneberry (2017, p174) also agree that social media must be constantly and consistently monitored and reviewed for any views and opinions so e-PR requires lots of time and effort and not just one big outlay of expenditure like was the case with traditional PR.  

A.Charlesworth (2015, P210) reminds us that also it is important to have a pre-planned and organised disaster strategy in place to help navigate the murky waters of the online world. Social media has increased the importance of having a good emergency procedure to deal with negative events which can quickly diminish a company or organisation’s repute/character. D.Chaffey and P.R.Smith (2017) agree with this on p413 they say it has never been easier to damage your company or organisations reputation through a bad relationship with customer’s online. It is debatable whether the impact of bad relationships online are long-term or short-term but this probably depends on the size of the company as to whether reputations can weather storms of bad publicity.

D.Chaffey and F-Ellis-Chadwick (2016; from pages 502-507) have a number of things to say about e-PR and traditional PR such as the strengths and weaknesses of E-PR and how best to prepare and control E-PR (which is much harder to do than with mass traditional PR with its short-term campaigns and projects). C.Dempster (2015, p14) also agrees that their needs to be a shift in how PR is controlled and prepared compared to past practices; PR planning and organisation now has to happen in a much more reactive way now compared to traditional more controlled passive way.  D.Ryan (2017) has some interesting and thought-provoking ways (methods, tools and techniques) to engage (via online content) with the current generation of online users in this multi-channel, multi-device digital landscape- remember that content must inform, educate or entertain. 

There are a number of considerations when writing for Public Relations and this can equally applied to writing for Social Media (though remember Social Media is a much more casual channel for more informal discussions and debates)- see studies by J.Foster (2012) or D.L.Wilcox (2014) for further details.

Nicholas (no first name given, 2015) compares and contrasts social media marketing and public relations. Marketing for social media requires a mixture of both PR and marketing. To be successful on social media you need to know how to balance customer relationships and liaison with making/generating brilliant engaging, creative media pieces, curate fascinating events and normally just connect with your customers/public. The main difference between PR and social marketing is your audience on social media is diverse and large whereas in traditional PR your audience was mainly select internal and external people who were important movers and shakers for networking and monetary reasons. This means social media is a slow-burner when it comes to relationship building and it will require more time and effort than traditional PR to make a big force change.  .” People on social media do not require a company to have a certain position/perspective or a catch/attraction or the hard sell for companies products or services. People on social media would like is for the company online to have a clear, consistent message and a clear tone of voice. If company’s do change perspectives on social media posts then there is now a backlash and people are getting annoyed/irritated at the changeability and will likely see your company as fake and will go elsewhere. Social media marketing is much more active and interactive then traditional PR where messages are considered mainly in a reactive way. PR has peaks and troughs connected to key events and campaigns whereas social media requires concerted and sustained effort and time on a continuous basis to grow and preserve and you will lose likes/followers/subscribers if you turn social media content on and off.

In conclusion, there will always be a need for public relations to be about selling the products and services of a company; but, for longevity, this needs to be mixed with cultivating meaningful customer relations (online via social media for example). This is supported by P.J. Kitchen, P.J and E.Uzunoglu (2015) in their book; p17- The solution to the challenges of the modern-era communications era is in these authors opinion an  integrated communications solution combining digital media (Social Media etc…) and traditional media (press, TV, radio etc…) this view is supported by M.Stelzner (2014) who says that to build relationships you need a combination of offline and online techniques. 


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