Siliconcowboy's Blog

Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility

A Social Media World Needs Public Relations Now More than Ever

I find it remarkable when people suggest that public relations is a dying art, that social media are quickly overtaking the space.

Remarkable in the sense that, without a well-thought-out public relations plan, the experience of being in social media can be more like swimming in a pool of sharks than anything else.

The reason?

Social media provide everyone the opportunity to have an opinion.  And by everyone, we mean primarily your audience.

Who is your audience? Well, that hasn’t changed much. It’s journalists, analysts, industry influencers, partners, alliances, customers, potential customers, your employees, and your competition.

What has changed is that social media allows each of these parties to participate in every public discussion you may have. Therefore, when you plan to deliver a message, you really have to consider that you will get dialog and responses from each of these groups.

The recent Facebook privacy disaster is a clear case in point.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could have known he was headed for an onslaught of criticism if he had considered the ramifications of announcing the new privacy policy at the f8 Developer’s Conference, rather than a more public setting.  How so?

An announcement to a closed group of developers, even if broadcast over social media as this was, is nevertheless focused on one audience: Developers.

And those developers have only one thought in mind: How is Facebook going to help me monetize my software apps?

By announcing privacy settings which impact every one of Facebook’s users to an audience of a few hundred developers who are really only interested in making money, Zuckerberg brought the hammer of negative public opinion down all by himself. He really had no chance to be successful.

The major portion of his audience — his 450 million users — already understood that he wasn’t interested in having a conversation with them. He was more interested in delivering user information to advertisers.

The irony that Facebook is all about its user’s conversations shouldn’t go unnoticed, but still does. He still hasn’t directly addressed his audience on the matter.

No, public relations isn’t dead. It is simply underutilized.


One comment on “A Social Media World Needs Public Relations Now More than Ever

    May 25, 2010

    PR is not a dying art, but a very underutilized and misunderstood strategic practice. Most companies have relegated PR to the process of producing press releases and doing media relations, which is nothing more than publicity… the most base form of public relations.

    Real pubic relations is the crafting of opinion in the marketplace of ideas. It is not an exact science and it is not easily measured, but doing it wrong or half heartedly is disastrous.

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