How Has Social Media Changed the PR Landscape?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog posts – which all three of you are – you’ll know that I often discuss what’s happening in the world of public relations. You’ll also know that my ramblings often contain a strong social media component. There’s a reason for this.

Over the past few years the media landscape has changed considerably. About fifteen years ago, audiences would get their news from one or two sources; usually print, television, or radio. Now, audiences turn to multiple sources such as news websites, blogs, businesses, and other audience members. Due to this, newspaper sales have been in decline.

Social media and the internet can be largely blamed for this. Why? Because it has revolutionized the way information is broadcast and shared. Audiences are now choosing what news they want to be exposed to.

As a budding public relations professional, internet native, and cyber-utopian, I am constantly reminded of this fact. In today’s PR and media landscape, you’ll struggle to find a great campaign that doesn’t exploit social media in some way. After all, when it’s used properly, social media can create valuable relationships with consumers, show a brand’s personality, and expand a brand’s reach tenfold.

So, how exactly has social media changed the PR landscape? Here’s an incredibly brief, three-point rundown:

Information is easier to access

Traditional media, such as print, usually broadcasts information on a one-to-many basis. The birth of social media has changed this, enabling many-to-many communications. This way of communicating allows for response and interaction between the organization and its audience. It also allows for dialogue between the audience members themselves.

In the social media age, the audience is no longer passive. Through social media, each member of the audience has their own stage and can make their voice heard in a public way; they’re content creators in their own right.

The media landscape is far, far quicker

For reporting news, traditional media can only act retrospectively; reporting on an event that has occurred. Social media allows brands and their audiences to distribute messages to millions of people cheaply and instantly – often distributing information as an event is happening.

This does, however, mean that the media and the news they report have to move far quicker. Audiences have come to expect quality content instantly, particularly as the majority of social media users are participating in real-time. This is especially true for crisis communication. As everyone now has their own platform, anyone can distribute news. If something happens to a brand and it isn’t the first one to tell its story, someone else will be telling it for them.

Audiences can engage with messages

Although it never stops anyone shouting at the television, traditional media is primarily a one-way medium, leaving audiences little chance to respond and offer their input. Social media changed this. Audiences can now comment on messages and make their opinions known.

The upside of this is that it starts a conversation and allows brands to build real, personal relationships with their consumers. This has a huge impact on the way people perceive your brand and is a large factor in brand loyalty.

Although the social media landscape can be difficult to traverse at times, the positives of investing in this type of communication far outweigh the negatives. Though, that’s a rather moot point considering the move to social is seen less and less as an option and more as a necessity.

Ultimately, communications professionals and brands need to adapt – even if it does mean becoming “on call;” social media able to demand attention any hour of the day or night. To fail to do so is to fail to understand how audiences are consuming information and messages; PR suicide.