5 Ways Social Media Will Influence Public Relations

Kristyn Snell (She/Her)

March 23, 2022

Brand perception is everything in our hyper-connected world. Even the smallest actions can impact the way customers perceive your brand for years to come.

This is exactly why public relations agencies exist. They work to cultivate a positive public image for their clients across all channels in an authentic and transparent way.

So, how do PR agencies achieve this goal? In today’s digital world, digital PR, namely social media, has quickly become a cornerstone when building a positive public perception of a brand. Largely due to its ability to reach vast amounts of people and a variety of key demographics. 

Any PR agency that wants to properly serve its clients must learn to embrace the current and future influence of social media on the industry. The impact of digital marketing and social media is rippling through the PR world and it’s gaining momentum, blurring the lines between PR and digital marketing.

Savvy public relations professionals are aware of this trend too, as 87% of surveyed PR professionals believe that the current understanding of  “public relations” will not describe the work they’ll be doing five years from now.

It’s time to explore how social media is already influencing PR, and how it can help you continue to cultivate a positive brand image.

Traditional PR and Social Media: The Industry Has Already Changed

Traditional PR relied on traditional media to interact with the general public. The most common traditional PR technique is sending out press releases to select journalists or using a PR wire service to distribute them. 

The goal of traditional PR is to influence public opinion about their clients in a positive way. However, the effectiveness of their efforts was difficult to objectively measure. Additionally, the consumers couldn’t talk back.

Enter social media. Brands can now directly interact with their target audience. Consumers can engage through live messaging, online discussions, or highlight problems with the company’s image. Social media has enabled brands to have real-time conversations with the public, as opposed to carefully crafted messages aired during news coverage.

The impact of social media on public relations cannot be understated and it’s not slowing down. You could almost say the industry is transforming into “social media relations.” 

Are Traditional Press Releases Even Still a Thing?

You better believe that PR agencies are still sending press releases. Yet, 52% of surveyed journalists say they don’t even read a press release sent by agencies and businesses. 

The same study revealed that journalists who do still read press releases are looking for legitimately newsworthy stories that relate to a current trend. Journalists need clicks and views, and that means more important news.

Will press releases die off completely? Probably not for a while, but their content and effectiveness have already been dramatically altered. The fact is, PR today is heavily influenced by social media.

Social Media will Continue to Radically Transform PR

The role of social media in public relations continues to evolve. An agency’s clients expect their reputation to be managed everywhere, not just through press releases and traditional ad placements. 

Below are five meaningful ways that social media will change the responsibilities of public relations professionals. Many of these changes are already in effect and they’re not going to slow down.

1. Agencies Must Foster Connections with Consumers

Social media has presented brands with a way to showcase more of the brand’s personality, story, and overall message. Consumers now see brands on the social media platforms they frequent, and they’re seeing countless other brands and businesses right alongside your clients. 

A connection must be created and nurtured by PR agencies that allows brands to reach their target markets. Brands should also be publishing content on a regular basis to earn attention and impart a specific message that consumers will connect with. 

2. PR Agencies Need to Understand Social Media Analytics

Every social media platform provides businesses with a mountain of data. This data highlights social media engagement, in other words, how well the specific ad or post is connecting with the target audience. Are they liking the post? Sharing it? Clicking through to the client’s profile or website?

Approximately 62% of surveyed journalists indicated that relevance to the audience is one important quality that makes people share a brand’s post. Meaning your efforts must be tailored and targeted to  the right people.

The onslaught of data from past and current posts sheds light on how the target audience is responding. Understanding this data helps PR agencies refine their approach, including the people they’re trying to reach. 

3. It’s Time to Embrace the Micro-Influencer Effect

Influencer marketing has become a staple of modern digital marketing, but what about smaller accounts? A PR influencer strategy can leverage micro-influencers to develop an incredibly personalized message directed at niche audiences. 

Micro-influencers on Instagram are any accounts with around 5,000 to 20,000 followers  that are actively consuming their content. PR agencies can leverage the trust of micro-influencers to further refine their client’s image and messaging. 

Agencies can look to the wisdom of marketing firms on this one. Micro-influencers are actually preferred by 77% of marketers over macro-influencers. Agencies that leverage the power of social media influencers can better serve their clients by tactfully selecting the right micro-influencers that relate to the client’s brand, niche, and messaging.

4. Consumers Can Now Talk Back

Consumers can and will respond to your actions, which might not always be ideal. That's why an agency should work to create a productive conversation with consumers. 

However this isn’t always how it works out. An otherwise well-meaning post can backfire if it correlates with controversy or is simply posted at the wrong time in regard to world events.

PR agencies have the responsibility of staying up to date on the world around them, specifically keeping a close eye on their clients’ respective industries.. After all, your posts do not occur in a vacuum, meaning you must be ready and willing to respond to consumer feedback.

5. PR Professionals Must Develop a New Skillset

Each of the above points contribute to one key takeaway - PR professionals and their marketing teams need to adapt. Brilliantly written press releases don’t mean as much as they used to.

A successful public relations firm  provides compelling visuals, writes eye-catching captions, and leverages ongoing digital media trends. Roughly 77% of journalists say connectedness to trending stories makes a story shareable, while 74% say stories need a compelling image. 

Agencies that want to keep their clients happy need new skill sets, either by re-skilling existing employees or hiring new ones.

Embrace the Future of Public Relations With MODERNSPEAK

Here’s the deal: traditional press releases aim to gain the attention of traditional media outlets, but the reality is, they aren’t being read by most journalists today. 

Social media has quickly replaced the traditional press release because of the reach, exposure, and readability it provides. Social media allows brands to grab the attention of potential consumers anywhere online. 

It’s safe to say today’s businesses (and consumers) have higher expectations and it’s important  to be ready to meet them. 

MODERNSPEAK is your one-stop-shop for all things PR and your go-to partner when it comes to navigating the ever changing  future of public relations. Let us help you to become agile, creative, and data-driven by transitioning from traditional PR to the new landscape. 

Leverage our extensive experience in public relations, social media marketing, and influencer marketing to achieve improved results and reach your unique goals.. Book a meeting today to speak to our creative PR experts and discover how we can help.

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