Social media is the future of Traditional Media says Kavita Lakhani, President, LinOpinion Public Relations

I’m often asked, is PR redundant in a wired world? Will social media replace traditional communication?  The answer is a definite no.

So what effects have social media technologies had? 

They have impacted the way the message is disseminated, but not the message itself, which remains as powerful and important as it has always been. Also, the economics of social media is a key point to consider.

Online media hasn't replaced traditional PR; rather, it's allowed the PR sector to grow in numerous ways and reach more audiences, not less. Social media is going to be the future of traditional media.  It is spontaneous and constantly inventive.

In the wake of online media technology, the demand for PR and the ability to handle, control, and drive a message effectively is more important than ever. At the core of PR are both the delivery and the creation of the message. This means developing different story angles for different publications, matching the message to the medium, and shaping the pitch to sell the story to newspapers, trade publications, business magazines, online publications, radio, television, and more. 

What makes social media forms so different?  If we use these social media for controlled messages - the kind companies always prefer - then we have a new toy, but we haven't done anything to change the way we play.

What makes these new media truly exciting is that we can use them to change the rules of the game, to surrender control and in exchange gain credibility - the most valuable currency of all in a media-saturated, message-proliferated environment.

That means we don't create the media. We might initiate a conversation, or engage an audience, but if it's going to take advantage of the ability of these new media to deliver something powerful, that conversation must be allowed to take on a life of its own. It's organic. It's free-flowing. It has multiple contributors rather than a single creator.

Nowadays it’s less about word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and more about word of “mouse.” Yes it’s the clicks and links that count as much as the grapevine. 

Social media has created a new layer of influencers. It is the understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate. New conversations start locally, but may have a global impact.  

Content is the new democracy. The Web is no longer just We, but We and Me - it's a personalized experience. What you want, and what the group wants: it's a sea change, with how media is getting consumed. 

Getting someone to hear the message is half the battle. Having the members of the media consider it newsworthy is the other half. A growing number of journalists and news editors are reading blogs and tweets on a daily basis to find new and interesting story ideas.

When teamed with an RSS news feed, which employs the same technology as stock market and weather forecasts, a blog can provide an instant pipeline directly to a journalist's computer in seconds.  Though often seen as partisan gossips, bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to public light, with mainstream media having to follow their lead.  Several Indian mainline dailies like the Times of India, Hindustan Times and Mid-Day publish views of active bloggers and tweeters on topical issues. 

One important observation regarding bloggers is that it’s not just about the most influential bloggers out there; it’s about the “magic middle.” These are the people who recognize valuable content and in turn share it amongst each other.

In conclusion, the evolution of social media is forcing an incredible transformation in PR and corporate communications – it’s most dramatic to date; even more significant than the introduction of radio, television and motion pictures.  Social media is about speaking with, not “to” or “at” people.  The difference is that by listening, reading, and participating, corporate marketing will be smarter and more approachable than ever before.  No matter the medium, someone's always going have to craft the message, create an effective strategy for how the message is received, and ensure the message remains powerful as it evolves both online and off.  Social media is about sociology, not technology.

Kavita Lakhani is President, LinOpinion Public Relations, Executive Vice President, Lowe Lintas and Co-Chair India, IPG Women’s Leadership Network