The emergence of social has caused a fundamental shift in PR says Rimjhim Ray

PR in the olden times was straight forward. It consisted of one way communication through TV channels, newspapers and the large fancy corporate events. Public image was controllable to a great extent as influence had to be wielded on or through a countable number of media channels.

The emergence of social has caused a fundamental shift in the basic tenets of PR. Forget controlled press releases. Forget the 9pm news. Forget the pitch to the editors. News is here, now and un-gated. The concept of broadcasting news has given way for many to many sharing. Citizen journalism means that twitter often is the first place to break news.

Does this impact PR? Yes. Is there a social-PR conflict? The answer is still slightly ambiguous as traditional PR practitioners view social with a degree of suspicion. The writing is clearly on the wall. PR has to understand the nuances of social for building an effective communication mix and manage branding and reputation.

The first step to busting the PR-social walls is acknowledging that social exists. Many PR practitioners tend to brush social aside or pretend it does not exist. When you plan a PR strategy how will you manage the social media activation around it? Or even before that manage the social media conversations that the PR generates? So even if you are not tweeting your story out, media houses will. Or a reader will. And then the news will be debated, dissected and discussed online. You have to be ready for scenarios like this.

The first imperative then for PR is to integrate a social media listening strategy into its PR program. Think of this as tracing the ‘Voice of the Customer’ or the general audience. Trace how readers are listening to your story. Plan the response. Be ready to tweak your campaign. Social necessitates a feedback loop to be built into PR.

The social media activation has to complement the traditional PR approaches.

Trying to build the executive profile? Use channels such as the LinkedIn influencer program open to select public figures such as Bill Gates and Barrack Obama. Create and help manage a twitter profile that directly connects with their audience. 

Publishing great stories about your social campaigns? Don’t. Create a powerful social campaign which draws people into your CSR initiatives. Unilever does a good job with powerful videos, an online hub and conversations around Project Sunlight. More powerful than an insertion in a newspaper. Social helps you bring the news alive.

When you talk about a social integration of PR, departmental and agency silos then come into sharp focus. So who will do the ‘social’ part of PR? There are solutions – none easy. PR agencies and teams have to acquire social competencies.

Having said that social often becomes a free for all expertise and there is a danger of doing a half-baked job. So if you have a social marketing competency in your organisation work with them to plan the social strategy. Or work with a specialist social media agency.

Yes there is a manpower overhead but then from an overall cost perspective, social activation adds significantly less to your PR/ media outlay. Most of it is free publicity. However as they say it is not a free lunch – so assuming social will just fall into place can prove suicidal. Prepare for it if you have not already. Your reputation depends upon it.

Author BIO

Rimjhim Ray leads the social media strategy for an Indian MNC. She has a decade of experience in sales, marketing and consulting across the globe in UK, USA and EU. She is often cited as a key social media influencer in the country. Rimjhim is a guest blogger and mentor for several forums. Rimjhim holds a MBA from SP Jain, Mumbai and certificates in social media from CIM, UK. She is also a guest speaker at several B schools including SP Jain.

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