The News Release is not Dead, but it’s Dying

It’s been over a year since my last entry, but for good reason! I’ve been working as a social media coordinator for almost two years now, building an online brand and reputation that has thrived since my humble start at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in August 2013. A job in social media may sound fun to most since it’s something we all use on a daily basis, but it takes an incredible amount of hard work, dedication, planning and strategy to manage social media for a company or organization. I’ve been fortunate enough to promote the great research being done at the institute via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram, and the most rewarding part of it all is getting to learn about Florida’s natural environment and the many fascinating marine science and research projects happening around the state. I’m learning something new everyday, and the knowledge I’ve gained over the last year and a half is something I never could have never imagined when I first started in this position.

One thing I’ve come to find out while immersed in a social media career is that the media no longer relies on the traditional news release for ideas and story leads. Reporters now have the luxury of scanning social media sites for story ideas, and the PR industry has benefited by reaching the media via different channels. On the institute’s Facebook page, print reporters and local, state and national television news stations track our content on a weekly basis, and our stories have gone viral from news outlets picking them up directly from our social media channels. As our audience has grown larger, we’ve become more aware that the general public is not our only target audience. Technology and the rise of social media has transformed the PR industry for the better, and it’s given us an opportunity to foster trust and good will with not only the public but with members of the media. The news release will always be a staple in our profession, but social media gives PR pros another avenue for reaching reporters at the right time, with the right message and on the right medium.

Social media is here to stay, and public relations professionals need to begin identifying how it can be best leveraged to achieve important communications goals for a client, company or organization.

 

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Publicity Does Not Define Public Relations

the oscars
Publicity and public relations do not go hand in hand. As a communications professional it’s easy to make this distinction, but to  the general public it may not be as easy to differentiate the two. The 2014 Oscars are tonight, and while it’s a great event honoring our best and brightest in film, a problem still persists that continues to plague the PR industry, which is suffering from mistaken identity.

To put it lightly, the entertainment industry has belittled the value of public relations. If an actress sleeps with her married director (cough Kristen Stewart) and her reputation is at stake, what are the first words you hear? Public relations. Need to do some damage control? Get the PR person on it, because that’s clearly all we do as PR professionals. Our profession strives for transparency, trust, and a strategic approach to communication. A word like publicity is grouped with public relations so often, that if you don’t study our trade it’s easy to assume public relations is superficial and lacking depth.

Unfortunately we have many forces working against us, with the media as one of the primary culprits. They’ve perpetuated the false idea that public relations is only newsworthy and relevant when a major crisis erupts. Crisis communications is only one of many concentrations that fall under the large umbrella of public relations. Our work is not one-dimensional, but to outsiders I can see why that common misconception is alive and well.

To fix this problem, we must do what we do best. Educate, then persuade the public to maintain a certain point of view about what we really do as communications professionals. We’ve had a difficult time branding this new era of public relations, which isn’t just about manipulating news stories and unethical practices of the early years. Our profession has matured, and it’s time to make an effort to change the negative, uninformed perceptions and attitudes associated with PR.

Digital Media and Its Influence in Public Relations

Social media users have seen a significant change in the way they are able to carry out public relations practices. Social media outlets are interactive and two-way; two important characteristics of effective communication between a client and the public.

Organizations use social media to increase interactions with publics through a steady flow of inputs and outputs (Sundar, 2007) toward mutually beneficial relationships (Yang and Lim, 2009 S.-U. Yang and S. Lim, The effects of blog-mediated public relations (BMPR) on relational trust, Journal of Public Relations Research 21 (2009), pp. 341–359. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus (5)Yang & Lim, 2009).

The profession of public relations strives on truthful communication and a conversational atmosphere. This is what social media outlets provide. Users can talk business while being able to communicate in a manner that is less formal. Jargon and formal conversation may suggest to a client that there may be a motive involved.

A study that was conducted mentioned the impact that Twitter had on relief efforts after a massive earthquake in the country of Haiti. Many of the Twitter posts relayed a powerful, personal message. They were not even promotional or financially motivated but inspiring posts that brought our country to Haiti’s aid.

Social media outlets like Twitter are being commonly used in public relations practices. The posts are short and very personal, which give the public a sense of commitment and human interaction. Twitter is more than a message engine—it is a platform for social connection and promotion. It’s interactive and conversational which are driving forces in public relations.

Socially distributing public relations: Twitter, Haiti, and interactivity in social media Original Research Article
Public Relations Review, Volume 36, Issue 4, November 2010, Pages 329-335
Brian G. Smith