Is Social Media PR?

September 11, 2012

Traditionally public relations or PR was thought of in terms of press releases and earned media: what media placements or coverage did you receive that you didn’t pay to place? Enter social media and suddenly things are not as clear.

The definition of Public Relations is the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm or institution. While emphasis is placed on creating positive impressions in this definition, PR in the world of social media is all too often recognized as diffusing crises or doing your best to not start or escalate one. From Kenneth Cole to Chick-Fil-A, there are cases of tweets gone bad or social media backlashes that may never have made more than a passing mention in traditional media, but have turned into full-scale crises in the age of social media. That’s frightening for many organizations.

So does that make social media PR? There is no easy way to categorize social media into the traditional silos of advertising, marketing or public relations. PR is just one way social media can impact your organizations communication strategy.

If you apply the definition of PR to your social media efforts, would you classify that recent pin of your new product as a PR function as it helps Pinterest users have understanding and goodwill toward your brand? Or is it marketing, allowing your product to enter the consumer’s awareness during a key part of the purchase cycle? Maybe it is SEO as it creates a backlink from a reputable website to your site increasing your ranking in search engines? Does your pin also include a price with a link back to your online shopping cart page making it ecommerce? Maybe that pin, and all of your social media efforts, can be all of the above.

As social media is tough to classify and potentially touches so many aspects of your business, creating and managing your social media strategy, determining responsibilities and allocating budgets can be difficult. Quantifying the impact of your social media PR efforts can be even more challenging. PR professionals determine a media equivalency value for earned placements based on a formula including the costs of paid advertising in the publication. In the world of social media, this equivalency is not as obvious.

Social media means every follower or fan is now their own ‘media channel’ spreading your message to their friends when they find value. It is much more difficult to quantify the value of a Twitter follower or a Facebook fan versus a traditional media placement. The influence of one well-followed blogger on Twitter retweeting your message can be infinitely more valuable than a random benchmark of 100 or 1000 unengaged Facebook fans.

So now what? For those looking to improve their social media efforts, the key is to know your business, your target audiences, and your goals. Then develop a social media strategy that will make the biggest impact for your PR, advertising and marketing efforts. If you are only considering entering social media, don’t let stories of PR crises hold you back. Once you analyze the many ways social media can help support your existing PR, advertising and marketing efforts, you’ll be better positioned to make a decision than if you let fear alone keep you away.

If you need help maximizing your social media efforts or if you want to explore the opportunities it can provide to your organization, give Fresh Creative a call at 717.274.0292 or contact us via social media @fresh_creative on Twitter or visit us on Facebook.





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Fresh Creative is a full-service digital marketing agency serving international, national, and local clients. Local areas include Lebanon, Hershey, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Lititz and Reading, Pennsylvania.