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In the world of PR, it is important for practitioners to keep on top of social media – but with the sheer amount of different websites out there, it can seem a rather overwhelming task. The Quest PR agency have been looking into a study by Edinburgh Napier University which has shown that people and companies with a high number of social media contacts feel overwhelmed to keep them all up to date and informed. A task that does seem rather daunting at first.

Whilst it is extremely important to be active in as many areas of social media as possible, if you do not manage all these different areas effectively it becomes a huge task and ends up giving you bad PR because you simply cannot keep up to date with everyone! Not only does this cause negative PR, but exhaustion and frustration for the PR practitioner involved as it starts a vicious circle where clients and fans are not kept interested, and so don’t pass on the brand to their friends. In terms of social media, this is a vital mistake – as the best way to get your online profile talked about and popular is by people sharing it with their online friends…

If you want to have a balanced, and easily manageable social media brand, the best way to do so is to use multi-platform clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. By using these, practitioners of PR can manage all their connections across social media and this makes the whole world of PR 2.0 far more accessible and far less overwhelming. By joining up all of a brands social media outlets into a few, easy updates it helps to create a consistent and coherent approach which will hopefully lead to a positive PR outcome. Whilst doing this though, it is important to tie these social media based PR campaigns with your business strategy.

Quest sum this up in three questions which you should ask yourself to stop getting overwhelmed:

  • Are my social media activities linked to my business plan?
  • Am I maximising my content across my PR, marketing and social media platforms?
  • Am I measuring my return on engagement?
Overall I think it is very important to not get overwhelmed by social media. Although it is very easy to get bogged down underneath all the different sites and techniques that can be used, it is clearly possible to consolidate all the difficult parts of social media into easy, more manageable chunks. By doing this, it allows people to not get overwhelmed by social media and instead allows for positive PR to come out of it, rather than negative PR.

The people at Quest PR have written an article about the hottest trends in social media. With 412 new blog posts appearing every minute on the internet (yes, this is one of them), they have picked out 4 trends that seem to predict the future:

  • Businesses that offer more personalisation and customisation with thrive
  • Small businesses will have a better chance of competing with bigger names
  • Companies generating powerful content will come out on top
  • More pressure for social media strategies to deliver a greater return on investment

These 4 simple statements may seem extremely obvious, but in a PR world that is cut-throat yet sometimes dated they could be key rules for people to follow in order to survive in this new, PR 2.0 based world. On top of this, those companies that take these rules and then look deeper into them, will be the ones that thrive.

In my opinion, the most important points for companies to take note of are the first and third ones, so we’ll focus on those right now. Social networks since MySpace have been designed with customisation in mind, and whilst this customisation of a Profile Page has been diluted on Facebook, it still allows for its users to fill their profiles with as much, or as little, information about their likes and dislikes as possible. By using these customisable elements of sites like Facebook, businesses can find people who are interested in their product and attract specific groups towards their brands both on- and off-site. This is a great tool, and can be used to the advantage of brands such as Marmite who encouraged both lovers and haters of their product to join fan-pages – which then increased the brand awareness of the product. This kind of knowledge would be similarly useful for finding business leads on LinkedIn.

Similarly, the businesses and brands that use this customisation to their advantage will be able to create more powerful content, and when that happens people tend to speak higher about the brand or company in question. The best PR any business can have is through word-of-mouth, and by provoking people to speak about their products through clever and powerful content, companies are creating their own good PR – without having to force their messages down people’s throats. This is however, a risky strategy. Although PR 2.0 lets businesses take a back seat at times, and lets the general public do their work for them, the businesses themselves still need to let their social media PR campaigns bring a significant return or – like advertising – they just become another waste of money. I do think though, that if PR companies follow the rules mentioned in this post that they should not be too worried about investing hard into PR2.0 and social media!

Finally though, I disagree with the point Quest originally made about small businesses now almost having a fair playing field with larger companies. Although a lot of what happens on the Internet is driven by independent people, hence why small businesses can get some very positive PR through outlets like Twitter, the big businesses still have more money to spend on online campaigns. Even though anybody can set up a Twitter feed or Facebook fan page, the businesses with lots of money can spend endless amounts of cash on big, innovative and powerful content as well as hire teams to look after it.

In my opinion, if companies want positive PR to be spread across the internet, social media is the best way to do it – and if they follow these trends, then hopefully their company will be the one we’ll all be talking about tomorrow!

In a PR 2.0 world, where PR is now focussing a lot more on social media and the internet, it can be difficult to know exactly who is talking about what brands, let alone what people are saying about them. Anthony Silverman has written an article for PR Week about this point and discusses how brands and businesses are now highly aware of the anonymity of the Internet and how they are scared of somebody using social media tools to “wreak havoc with their corporate reputation.”

Silverman picks up on the point that companies, and PR as a whole are unsure what to do about all the uncertainty in the social media world. According to him, “sticking one’s head in the sand” has been conceived as an appropriate digital strategy by some, and by others the whole notion of digital PR is simply the same old journalists, employed by the same old people, writing the same old things, but on a new medium. This, in my opinion, is a very dangerous way to think about things in the new PR world and Silverman agrees.

There are many dangers to staying hidden, or ignoring what is going on in social media. Businesses run a high risk of either being lost on the internet behind more creative brands and campaigns or they run the risk of their brand being incredibly damaged by comments that are not being looked at or acted upon. Whilst it may now be harder sometimes, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, to track down who exactly is saying what on the Internet, it is important that the impact of such things is kept to a minimum. Important ways of doing this would be to keep an up-to-date Twitter feed and Facebook profile, as well as look out for errors on user-editable sites such as Wikipedia. Whilst this may not prevent people saying what they like about companies, it at least stands companies in a good position for protecting themselves if something comes up against them.

In my opinion, it is crucial for companies to maintain their online presence and responsibly keep them up-to-date and moderated so that they do not have to spend all their time wondering who is talking about them. I agree that the Internet is a hugely anonymous place, but I do not think this is a reason for companies to shy away from comments, criticisms and queries. Instead, I think it gives a great place for brands to directly converse with their customers and discover problems and solutions they probably never knew existed. Whilst this does not directly cover the threat of somebody using social media tools to destroy corporate reputations, business can be comfortable in the knowledge that by preparing themselves across social media – they are well placed to deal with any such attack if it happens in the future… (they just need to be wary of the threat from journalists who are well adapted to social media, and are not so anonymous!).

A major question to ask in the midst of a social media boom is; ‘are PR companies are ruining the possibilities that sites like Facebook offer to businesses and companies?’ Well, with a few excpetions, it seems the answer is a resounding yes. Daniel Stein has written an article on the subject and has brought to light some very interesting points. Stein looks at the way traditional PR worked; usually by filtering through journalists to get messages printed somewhere. He then compares this to the advent of social media which has cut out this ‘middle man’ and allowed PR companies to chat directly to customers and fans of products and people.

Whilst this might sound like a dream scenario for PR, it truly hasn’t ended up as one. Stein mentions the fact that PR-led social strategies are not engaging and simply focus on “an endless. aimless stream… that focusses on news, offers and the occasional contest,” the latter of which doesn’t attract true fans to the product but simply bolsters the number of Facebook likes a brand has, rather than connect real fans with the brand or service.This is where the issue lies and where I agree with Stein. Just about every brand in the world has a Facebook profile page or fan page, and most have thousands (or millions) of likes. Yet, many treat our News Feed’s as simply a literal feed of news. As humans we crave interaction, fun and quirky ideas – particularly when browsing a social networking website. If a PR agency is only providing basic, formulaic interaction with the fans on the website, they won’t get a very positive outcome, and will contribute to the many other similar scenarios swamping the website.

If this is the case though, what can people do about it? Stein sums this up too in a concise quote:

Effective social marketing is about putting something directly into the hands of your audience. It’s not telling people what to think or trying to make branded small talk. It’s about giving people something to do and encouraging them to engage with your client’s brand between purchases.

This describes the key task brilliantly. You cannot, as a PR practitioner, force people to think a certain way, or even force them to discuss your brand in any way possible. You need to capture your audience’s imagination and get them involved with your brand – as subtly as possible, if possible.

On top of this, I think if you engage your existing fans, they are all the more likely to hit the ‘Share’ button or even tell their friends about the product or brand face-to-face. The more excited people are about a brand, the more likely they are to recommend it, and this is how fan numbers can spiral! I think this is where the PR behind social media can go wrong, every PR firm is looking for this magic moment, but very few find it – yet with the right push, a brand can become extremely successful and deliver a very positive experience. An example would be the BT Facebook Wedding. With this, they allowed their Fans on Facebook too vote for, and thus plan, the fictional wedding of the characters in their TV advertising campaign. Ths ad campaign has been running for years and has charted the couple through good and bad times, all of which have used the BT brand to show how they can be brought back together. By allowing BT customers and fans of the advert to engage with the climax of this campaign, they have allowed people to engage directly with their brand and get excited about it.

In summary, I think PR companies need to look at their online social media strategies before they stagnate the market for it too much. By simply finding something for fans to get excited about, Facebook’s PR-led brand pages could be a much less dull place.

PR 2.0

Rob Brown’s 2009 book Public Relations and the Social Web focusses on how PR is being affected by the social side of the internet and new medias as well as how this can be a positive to PR practitioners too, in a way that can be known as PR 2.0. As an introduction, Brown states how this new side of the internet has a “range of implications” on PRs in that their “task is now more difficult” although it now allows them “to target groups on a much narrower basis” (p.11). This is a basic way of describing the new media term of convergence, by which digital, or new media, is moving away from being controlled by those in charge and moving towards a situation whereby the owners of the media do not control the content that is displayed on it (p.14). This is where PR can come into its own. Brown’s musings about the convergence of media through the internet show how PR now has a huge role to play for companies who control aspects of the media. Now that they do not control the content, they have no idea what people may say, or how people may react to products, ideas or services. The media is now a two-way conversation and organisations (both media based, and consumer based) now have the choice to “either take part in these conversations or [not]” (p.18).

Brown’s thoughts are an introduction to this new idea of PR 2.0 and I have been thinking about how this can be implemented – as well as examples of how it already is being implemented. PR 2.0 sits hand in hand with Web 2.0 and Brown’s previously mentioned two-way conversations are central to this idea. If companies do not take part in these conversations with their customers and take on board their criticisms and opinions then they run the risk of being perceived very negatively in the public eye. Social media websites such as Facebook are probably the most important part of these conversations as they allow very direct discussion between companies and their customers. A positive example I have seen of this is the Sainsbury’s supermarket Facebook page. The responses made from the company on this page are presumably written by one person, or a team of people working as part of Sainsbury’s PR team. What I think is an important observation of the web-page though is that the responses by Sainsbury’s are made in public and directly to the people who have asked a question or complained.

I think that this is the way forward for PR in its new terms of  ‘PR 2.0’ and I also think that this fits with Brown’s thoughts on the future of PR and how companies should interact with their customers. In my opinion, companies should be focussing their efforts to Web 2.0 projects in order to participate with this new notion of PR 2.0 and provide a positive service to their customers, which can control the content on their services and participate in a two-way conversation, just how Brown said.


When looking at PR blogs across the internet, one thing becomes clear: there are hundreds upon hundreds of them all clamouring for your attention. What is even clearer though, is that there are many things that the bloggers themselves have in common. Their thoughts and opinions on current PR events and movements are often similar and it is these findings that I am looking at now.

Firstly, there is a feeling amongst PR practitioners that social media is becoming a speciality that you need to focus on, rather than it being integrated into normal PR. Yet, even with this view, bloggers like Stuart Bruce have argued that you do not need to be either a social media practitioner or a PR practitioner, as one area simply leads to another.

Secondly, in relation to the previous point, Richard Bailey discusses that despite the rise of social media, many practitioners of PR still focus on print mediums rather than those which are online. He believes that this is mainly because PR clients demand this kind of exposure in print media. However, he also notes that in these two areas of media the underlying ways of practising PR should remain the same.

Thirdly, there will never be a return to the old days of journalists being able to go straight to the source for a story without PR practitioners getting in the way. Emily Turner has written about how business is now increasingly averse to risks about slipping up when releasing quotes, and a slip up can cause a PR nightmare. It’s this contempt that some journalists have for PRs that causes tensions and disrespect between the two parties. In reality, Turner balances out the two parties by saying that PRs and journalists jobs aren’t actually that different.

Fourthly, whilst PR may be touted as being outdated or not needed in a modern climate, Kami Huyse has discussed that PR will not be going anywhere, and in fact will be doing quite the opposite. She believes that instead of technology simply replacing PR, it will instead advance PR and make it more efficient rather than make it obsolete. This is an interesting view and one that I agree with as technology is surely broadening the horizons of PR rather than limiting it and resigning it to the bin.

Finally, there are increasingly interactive uses of Twitter originating from the governor of Florida’s office. Jim Horton has written about how the governor’s own communications director is using the social network to fight back against journalists and stories which he does not like. Whilst this may work in their favour, particularly if the public take their side – it is bad PR practice (and refers to the rift between PRs and Journalists in point three) as it pulls up mistakes made in a very public domain for all to see.

These feelings on PR, although across five different blogs, all do point to how PR practitioners are focussing closer and closer onto social networks, as well as the relations they have with journalists. Whilst using Twitter has been seen in a negative light which goes against the points that Turner had made about how to keep a good relationship with journalists, the advent of social media has also introduced many positive debates about how it will, or will not, affect PR in the future.

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