Throughout my career as a public relations student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, I have taken a broad spectrum of courses which include interpersonal, intercultural, interracial, health communication in the Speech Communication Department. Social media has been a topic of discussion in these classes but until taking Public Relations for Social Media this semester, I was unaware of the capabilities social media platforms have for public relations.
Social media in the past has been a way to reconnect with others, communicate, share interests and build new relationships with people. Now social media has impacted public relations and professionals are using online tools and mediums to reach out to specific audiences. Social media brings about a whole new set of rules for public relation professionals to follow, but many are based on the same foundation that I have learned during my time college.
There are several important things I have found which are the same principles and rules of public relations taught in traditional courses that should also be applied with social media. One of those rules is to be concise and short as possible. While writing pitches, press releases and other copy, a public relations professional has to get to the point and not bore the audience. By removing any extra fluff and unnecessary information in copy, the audience will be given the straight facts without feeling they are being told an elaborate and egotistic side of a story. Twitter is an excellent way to practice telling a story short. In only a matter of 140 characters per tweet, stories and headlines of links must be to the point and spark the interests of followers. In class I have always been told to shorten and cut down copy. I now think up as I write shorter ways to make my point across social media.
Keeping the audience in mind is always an important feature while writing for PR and on social media. It is important to remember to write about and share content that is relevant and what the public wants to hear. I think about an example of this through Facebook posts. If I were to make a personal post on my Facebook wall for friends to see, I would more likely receive responses if the content was relevant material to others than just something I only like and understand. Always keep in mind the wants and needs of your public.
Communication with public relations should always be a two-way dialogue, not a monologue. I learned this concept from interpersonal and public relations courses and the same rule applies for public relation practices on social media. As professionals we must maintain communication by responding and creating relationships when the public interacts with us on social media. In Breakenridge and Solis’ Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, being real and talking in a personal and conversational tone has a greater effect than a factual monologue. “Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine (188).” The public would rather hear from public relation professionals in a personalized manner.
There are also several things I have learned from my social media class and book that explains why social media tools help public relations practices. First of all it is easier to reach a larger public. More people will see and interact with your organization or brand if you are present on different social platforms. Social media is on the web, phones and tablets. They have an ease of entry and are more likely to be viewed than traditional media such as newspapers and magazines.
In an article on PR Daily, Mandi Boyd states “…social media now affords brands the opportunity to present a statement immediately and simultaneously across several platforms, address a mass audience with the most up-to-date information, and interact with consumers directly.”
Social media also allows for easy two-way communication. In the past the public did not have much say or interaction with information created by public relations professionals. Now with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs, individuals may follow, like, comment and respond to the information they receive.
Social media also allows for a message to be unique and differentiated. Not every audience you want to reach will disseminate information in the same format. With social media, you must adapt to the public’s needs and make it easy for them to reach the information. Posting on several different platforms and in different ways will reach more audiences. “Social media also forces PR to see things differently. No longer can one set of messages to one audience serve a purpose. Social Media has forced PR to focus on the mainstream as well as the Long Tail, a group of niche markets reachable via dedicated channels (Breakenridge and Solis, 31)”
So far the first few chapters of Putting the Public Back into Public Relations has been informative, but is similar principles I have learned in my pubic relation classes. Social media has such capabilities and is constantly evolving. As long as professionals use social media properly, these platforms will increase brand awareness, create communication channels and foster important relationships to the public. I feel I have learned many of these things in my public relations classes already and consider myself lucky obtaining my degree while this public revolution is occurring online. I look forward to learning more as more platforms and practices evolve.