According to the statistics, the quantity of PR professionals rose dramatically while the number of journalists diminished. This says a lot about our society and how businesses approach it. If more PR practitioners are entitled to disseminate information, what does it mean in terms of the new skills needed in PR? (Pace, Everything PR)
The days when all PR people did were press releases, is over! Now, PR agencies need to step up and have many different skills that will set their organisations apart from the competition.
It is difficult to predict the evolution and impact of technology in Public Relations on a yearly basis, due to the constant changes.
Back in 2011, PR practitioners in the USA believed that social media did not represent a big part of the business. The established social media tools were the e-mail and intranet, while social networks were set aside (e.g.: Eyrich, Padman, and Sweetser, 2008; Diga and Kelleher, 2009). In 2009, authors concluded that US practitioners who used social media tools were seen as an advantage to their organisation, giving a greater structural, expert and prestige power (Diga and Kelleher, 2009).
On the other hand, European PR practitioners already considered most social media features an opportunity. Nevertheless, addressing print media was the most important communication channel. It was seen as a priority for the specialists, even though it was expected that, in 2014, online communication would take over this position (Verhoeven, Tench, Zerfass, Moreno, & Verčič, 2012).
What is the main difference between traditional media and social media? Essentially, it “is not the media itself, but the system of discovery, distribution, consumption and conversation surrounding the media” (Marchese, 2007). The reality is that public relations practice has dramatically changed due to the emerging and social communication media. The production costs are normally large when it comes to traditional media outlets, whereas with social media, “anyone with access to a computer has the power to reach a potential global audience at little or no cost” (Wright & Hinson, 2013, p. 2).
Technology is doing a lot for PR. These new media outlets have enhanced public relations practice, particularly regarding external audiences. The practitioners believe that social and emerging media continue to improve the industry in terms of precision, credibility, honesty and trust (Wright & Hinson, 2013).
Unfortunately, some organisations do not keep up with the fast evolving industry. A survey revealed that from a sample of 2013 respondents, only 43 percent measure what others have communicated about their organisations, either via blogs or social media (Wright & Hinson, 2013, p. 14).
Regardless of the obvious advantages digital media has brought to PR, there are several negatives to have in mind.
Social media has to be used wisely. It has been proven to be useful in enabling word-of-mouth, making it spread faster than ever. This can backfire to an organisation, for instance, during the night when the company has little control over the content and its dissemination (Papasolomou & Melanthiou, p. 1402, 2012).
Companies have to step up and go beyond simply maintaining a website for old-style promotion. There should be a constant quest to find new ways of interacting with publics, allowing a long-term relationship built within the principles of trust and transparency.
Verhoeven, P., Tench, R., Zerfass, A., Moreno, A., & Verčič, D. (2012). How European PR practitioners handle digital and social media. Public Relations Review, 38(1), 162-164. Available in https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dejan_Vercic/publication/251582755_How_European_PR_practitioners_handle_digital_and_social_media/links/0c96053320175f384e000000.pdf
Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2013). An updated examination of social and emerging media use in public relations practice: A longitudinal analysis between 2006 and 2013. Public Relations Journal, 7(3), 1-39. Available in http://test.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_WrightHinson_2013.pdf
Papasolomou, I., & Melanthiou, Y. (2012). Social media: Marketing public relations’ new best friend. Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328. Available in http://repository.ubn.ru.nl/bitstream/handle/2066/94369/M_338013.pdf#page=1403
Pace, R. (2015). The Changing World of Public Relations. Available in http://everything-pr.com/public-relations-newsroom/73367/