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Myths of Social Media’s Impact on PR

by Frank Strong

Myths of Social Media's Impact on PR

Social media has had a profound effect on public relations. The social community never sleeps and as a result information moves faster which means the effects of influence are now realized in hours, and with Twitter, perhaps minutes.

As with natural human tendencies, I believe the PR industry has been slow to adopt to change, but now that it has, the pendulum just might be swinging too far in the opposite direction. As one blog wrote recently, some PR tactics are either “dead or dying.” This strikes me as absolute — and I’d contend, tactics are changing, but not dying.

  • News releases are not dead; they will evolve. A news release is still an important document. It is a carefully considered statement that describes the official words of a person or an organization. News releases should be optimized for social media – a company may blog to provide greater detail, key words should be included and hyperlinked for SEO, and links provided to photos, videos and interactive media. A blog by contrast, can have all of these elements, however is often off-the-cuff, written by a single person who may or may not have solicited input before making a post. Blogs are supposed to be that way, its part of what makes them interesting, but it doesn’t mean news releases are dead.
  • Avoid underestimating the power of carefully a considered letter. When was the last time you sent a personal letter? When was the last time you received a personal letter? When I receive personal letters, I open them because the letter has been especially drafted for me. It’s exclusive, it stands out and it’s very personal. I’m not suggesting PR types blast out pitches to reporters via mail, but a clever pitch, with a good story to the right reporter can produce results.
  • Newspapers are a dying PR target. We’ve heard this before from the likes of 1999 and the last recession. Newspapers will change and it does seem evident that there will be less of them in the future. However, newspapers, with professional reporters still hold a tremendous amount of credibility. In addition, there’s an element of supply and demand at play – the fewer newspapers might mean those still in circulation gain influence. Will they all die out like dinosaurs, or will they evolve to meet a new world? Finally, consider the most important, and what should be the first step in any communications effort: audience identification.
  • Face-time still counts. How many people have you met online only to be surprised by the different impression you form when you finally meet them in person. Fewer reporters may in fact be inclined to accept a desk-side briefing, but it doesn’t mean you should stop trying to get one. Face-time makes a lasting impression, and cell phones and Blackberries aside, you’ll have more focused attention. If you are traveling to a particular city, make the time to reach out to reporters that cover your interests because this could mean you become a reliable source: that’s good for you and good for that reporter.

Social media has changed public relations, but it does not mean as practitioners we should jettison old tactics entirely, rather we should examine the mix and adapt as necessary.

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