Challenges For Public Relations Professionals In The Age Of Social Media
Media coverage has been a primary concern for decades for almost all clients undertaking any public relations or corporate communications campaign. What always mattered was the number of clips, size of clips, photo of spokesperson, logo, brand visibility so on and so forth. That's how traditional models of PR worked, and a lot of that pretty much exists today also as a part of the daily routine of public relations and corporate communications professionals, even though the evolution has already set in within the industry.
Most of the workers in this segment traditionally focussed on developing media relations through personal meetings, sitting together and discussing issues, having meals together, or interacting in a social setting to strengthen relationships with each other. This would enable each party to contribute their best in terms of delivering suitable content for the audience and reap mutual benefits by creating good visibility among the audience. In an era of no internet, communication was slow and much dependent upon paper and typewriters, and related skillsets like typing and shorthand also added a lot of value to the journalists' work and careers.
Most of them would require skill sets of good writing, excellent oral communications, a deep understanding of their domains, etc., which are pretty much basic requirements even now. Traditionally, all these skills would be enough for an individual to make an entry into the field of public relations and corporate communications. This would follow with an ability to build, sustain, grow, and develop great relationships with media, which would be a conduit for the dissemination of all valuable information.
The importance of media had was always ahead of everything and was one of the most prominent factors for ensuring good visibility for any company, individual, or institution for that matter. Most of the time, output in terms of coverage was directly linked with a strong relationship between the public relations professional and the journalist. Coverage and its impact on the targeted audience would always be of primary importance traditionally.
Initially, specific coverage beats of media weren't developed in as articulate fashion as they are today. The number of media outlets and journalists working over there would also be quite less in number and most of them would have remained in their offices for a long time. And a large number of journalists would have grown with their organizations and also, remained entrenched in their positions for a long time. Most often this would work very well with the corporate communications professionals, as their easy access through strong relationships in the specific media as targeted would deliver great results in their scheme of things.
One of the greatest challenges for corporate communications professionals is ensuring that their news always remains authentic for the audience as that's what will keep the brand loyalty alive
However, as things have evolved, currently it's all a new world. It's a new age environment and the words travel faster through the internet even compared to when we speak. The web is becoming ever powerful, ever spreading, ever-growing larger and larger, bringing in multi-fold networks and sub-networks under its authority creating more and more outreach opportunities than what was traditionally available to the public relations professionals. Its cascading effect of the network comes into play when the news travels on the network and reaches extensively to a varied audience through multiple channels. Each of such channels amplifies the news dissemination for each other and triggers an enhancement of the outreach leveraging each other's networks parallelly.
New dissemination and its delivery are almost in real-time through varied online channels and platforms, creating discussions, engagements, conversations, and talks all over the world in real-time. With the extended penetration of mobile internet, the news is available in the hands of almost every individual instantaneously and simultaneously, essentially enhancing the reach of the news substantially in a multi-fold manner.
One of the greatest challenges for corporate communications professionals is ensuring that their news always remains authentic for the audience as that's what will keep the brand loyalty alive. Today, with the plethora of social platforms available there is a strong chance that the real news gets mixed up with false, fake, or agenda-driven news. Any such news if gets mixed up with that of the corporates, institutions, or brands for that matter has the potential to create more damage than benefits.
It is the age of citizen journalism. So, anyone with a good mobile camera is a reporter and a media, even if it had to be on a minuscule scale. Many established media houses and channels today focus on citizen reporters and even give them a chance in participating in their mainstream news delivery. It's an encouraging aspect of today's mobile-driven world, which gives extended platforms of news delivery thereby creating enormous opportunities to tap as far as the public relations and corporate communications professionals are concerned.
Growth in the online news out-lets and mushrooming of small news sites over the internet also come with several opportunities and challenges. While most of them deliver news to their specialized audiences, some of them may face a credibility issue due to their linkage, proximity, or tilt to-wards any specific agenda. Corporate communications professionals need to be extra vigilant in such cases and need to keep assessing the relevance of any platform they may be used for the presence of their brands.
Besides this, in an online environment managing influencers, understanding the web dynamics, exploring cross-linkages of each platform, and leveraging the strength of cascading effects of the network remains the key to deliver the right messaging and ensuring outreach to the desired audience!