I just read an article which asked the question: “will social media overtake PR”?
In a world where tactics – practical ideas for getting clients into the press – are so frequently deployed without further thought as to the purpose of the exposure, I can understand why someone might think so.
However, PR is not a tool. It is the strategic practice which, some argue, overarches all other areas of communication. Asking whether social media will replace PR is like asking whether the hammer will one day render the toolbox obsolete.
PR professionals are having to expand their skill sets from writing attention-grabbing press releases and hard-hitting opinion articles to summarising corporate messages into 140 characters.
Somehow, I find it not too dissimilar to the change from sending press releases in the post (sometimes embargoed for two days or more) to emailing journalists instead. Some took to it like ducks to water; others needed a little longer to accept this ‘new’ way of working. In the end everyone got there.
We don’t need the country’s most experienced communications strategists to go on a technology course to learn how to use the latest social media aggregator software. Neither do we need them to teach managers about who to poke and who to like.
They need to do what they did five and ten years ago; devise a strategy and set out key messages to help businesses achieve their strategic objectives. Then, and only then, is it time to decide which channels are best used to communicate with stakeholders. And at this point, strategists will do well to engage with those who have immersed themselves into social media to understand how to make the most of it.
Social media is just a toolkit. It is a brilliant, exciting and fast-moving one that is changing the way we communicate. Businesses should embrace its potential. They should assess the risks and devise a plan for dealing with it. They should implement policies for using it in the workplace.
PR professionals must stay ahead or at least keep up with these trends. But sound, established principles of communications still remain as valid as they were ten years ago. Am I worried that social media will render PR obsolete? Not even a little.
With a strong network of media contacts and in-depth knowledge of professional services, Christina advises a range of businesses and law firms on media and business development initiatives.