By Sheila Kulik
Public Relations is an industry that is highly respected but rarely understood. As a student studying the art of PR (and it really is an art), I am always explaining my future field to my peers.
So while PR is the practice of communicating ideals, values, and missions of clients to the public community, doesn’t social media usage technically fall under this definition? Do my parents, who think my degree in Telecommunications will lead me to a job as a phone operator, have a point when they ask if my PR campaigns are just glorified Facebook posts? They might.
We live in a world of constant connection. Over 1 billion people use Facebook in 2015, a staggering 1/7 of our world’s population. At any given moment, I can jump on Twitter, tweet at a company about my experience with their product or store, and expect a timely response. Social media users have the privilege of being in close connection with even the largest corporations on the planet; we, as consumers, hold the power to publicly encourage or discourage our peers from buying or supporting almost anything. This has never been the case before.
So while the market is flush with products ready to be molded by the hands of their own consumers, and the platforms to speak for or against those products are available to anyone with an internet connection, PR professionals need to be on their top game in understanding the future of this profession to keep from becoming obsolete.
Understand Your Audiences
In order to appeal to today’s larger, more educated, and technologically savvy population, PR professionals need to understand that consumers need an interactive communications experience. Personalized advertisements, tailored to each consumer’s unique needs, are a start. While the industry needs to be very careful not to abuse the power of Big Data, convenience of today’s technology generally trumps feelings of invasion.
Work with the (Social) Media to Make it Happen
Furthermore, media relations are of the utmost importance, more so than ever before. I have the blogging ability to get my messages across the Internet in mere seconds. This does not, however, guarantee that I am a credible source. Public relations requires creating an authentic and reliable media presence. In order to maximize press coverage, PR professionals absolutely must work with credible media, especially of the social variety, to ensure that their messages are being heard.
Encourage Public Interaction
If PR is to succeed in a media-saturated environment, it needs public support. The best way to gain it is through public interaction. Working with consumers and allowing them to feel like they are a part of the message will imbue them with respect for your client. Keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram messages is extremely important. New technology has also made app development a snap, and this is a very effective way to gain consumer involvement. Creating an interactive app for a smartphone lets consumers make your client into a community. They can share purchases, reviews, and suggestions with other users and surround your client with a loyal support system that is founded on the trust of other users.
Give the Public Events They Can Share
If there’s something a Facebook guru loves more than scrolling through his or her newsfeed, it’s having an awesome thing to share. Real-life interaction still has value and will continue to have value in the future, but the value has shifted. Consumers want experiences that are new and exciting and are tailored to them as individuals. More specifically, they want events that they can photograph, post about, and blog about. The awesome thing about social media is that it gets everyone involved. Giving consumers an opportunity to take part in something they can include on their social media is giving them an opportunity to make that experience theirs. Public Relations needs to appeal to this concept when it comes to creating promotional events.