Should We Be More Social or Stay Traditional?

As the media continues to converge, it is increasingly important for public relations professionals to maintain strong relationships with all reporters and influencers; whether more traditional outlets or the new breed of media bloggers and thought leaders.  After all, ensuring a client’s communications and messages are delivered clearly and in a timely fashion to relevant targets is a key part of the job.

However, this requires a fine balance of efforts. As social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook become drivers of immediate news distribution, it is vital for PR professionals to embrace their use.  Twitter is fast emerging as the newswire of the future, with its immediacy driving many of the lead stories seen on evening broadcast news, or as the newspaper headline of the next day. Modern newsrooms have embraced social media as a key source of breaking stories, and on-screen reporters now regularly seen tweeting or using other tools to maintain the attention of ever-shifting audiences.

Yet on the flip side, we cannot and must not forget that this is not the only method of communicating externally and other reporters and outlets remain equally as important to our clients’ media success. One of the keys to successful PR is being able to utilize all channels that are relevant to a client, and use the best tactics to support that outreach.

Of course, deciding how to manage media relations is best solved on a client-by-client basis.  One organization, perhaps a more business to business focused company, might not place as much value on blogger relations as a more consumer-oriented brand, because investors are their main focus. This is nothing new; clients come in all shapes and sizes, with different end games and goals.

There are some clients who have yet to embrace social media.  Likely they have not seen the value of the medium in reaching the audiences that matter to them.  In this case, demonstrating they are not going at it alone is key; case studies highlighting success of other companies who have approached this medium successfully are a great tool for the PR pro.  From brands such as Dell to Xerox and TiVo, many organizations are seeing real results, and your clients can too.

In the meantime, do not forget the tried and tested tactics in the gold rush to embrace social media. A well targeted, mailed communication with a journalist might just cut through the electronic clutter they deal with on a daily basis. An in-person meeting to discuss news and views over coffee adds much more depth to a relationship than a hurried phone call ever can. Picking and choosing timely and relevant methods of outreach is something that will never change in the PR profession, even if how we do it does.

Yes, the media landscape is ever-changing.  Yes, the new influencers need to be recognized.  More important is demonstrating to clients that a team is more than capable of handling this shift, indeed is already handling it and is weaving in the new along with other existing methods.  We must remember that our job is to understand a client’s goals, translate them into a strategic plan and publicize their messages in both the mainstream and social media to best effect. 

Gemma Craven, Vice President, Breakaway Communications. 

  • Clay Morgan

    I enjoyed this article. I am constantly reminding clients, we must set our goals and then choose our tools to accomplish said goals. Those tools may or may not be traditional media, social media or a combination of the two.