It wasn't too long ago when public relations meant cultivating media contacts who could bridge the gap between businesses and mass media audiences. The press release became the currency of the PR world, and businesses had to work hard to get some "ink time" or "air time" to promote themselves.
This situation had a couple of disadvantages. First, the press release itself was a very restricting medium. It was static, limited to a few hundred words and its printing or airing was totally up to the media contact. It became so that the sole objective was to get the press release released, regardless of what that may mean to the business.
Social media has changed all that, and for the better. And if you're still paying big bucks to your media publicist to find you a spot to air your promotional plug on local TV or radio, or to bury your press release within the local dailies, then you need to climb out of the rock you've been living under these last few years. Social media has changed the game, practically rendering traditional media and PR practices irrelevant.
Here's how social media makes your public relations efforts more effective.
Straight to the Customers
In the past, you had to fight for a spot in the traditional mass media channels - newspapers, TV and radio - so that you can get the opportunity to promote yourself to their audiences. You were at the mercy of reporters and editors, who often had the last say and determined which sponsored stories were to be featured. It was a supply-driven model, with each reporter or editor usually bombarded by thousands of press releases or promotional plugs from businesses. Of course the system was inefficient, costly for businesses, lacking in data monitoring and reporting and subject to elements beyond anyone's control.
With social media, you can bypass all of these and go straight to your prospects with information that is useful or of interest to them.
Divide and Conquer
Promoting via traditional mass media is a lot like slinging spaghetti at a wall. Some of the spaghetti sticks to the wall, but most of it comes sliding down anyway. With traditional mass media, there were very little options for segmenting your target audiences. Social media platforms, on the other hand, come with a bewildering array of segmentation, analytics and reporting tools that allow you to dissect your audiences and determine how to craft and deliver your marketing messages to specific types of prospects.
A Two-Way Street
Traditional mass media was a one-way communication channel. You fired off your marketing message, but there was no practical way for the audiences to send you any feedback. Social media, by design, is an incredibly interactive channel. If your audiences do not agree with something you've posted, you can bet you'll hear about it almost instantly.
We've barely begun adopting social media to our PR needs and we've barely scratched the surface of what this wonderful tool can give us. I am certain PR will continue to evolve as new ways to incorporate social media are discovered.