The growing popularity of social media is likely to change the role of public relations, if it hasn’t already. Goals will turn from number of newspaper article placements to number of Twitter re-tweets, or from TV ad time toYouTube video counts. The number of Twitter followers someone has might even become more important than newspaper circulation and readership. But as the ease and accessibility of social media grows, will the role of PR agencies fall to the wayside? Not likely.
As the New York Times article, Spinning the Web, points out, this transition from traditional media to social media will have a huge impact for start-up companies. New ventures can get their company and product information out to hundreds of thousands of people for free using blogs, websites, and other social media, even if they have yet to make a cent.
But it’s actually a bit trickier than that. Even if PR professionals no longer represent a gateway to the media, they are still the main resource for channeling good ideas to reporters and channeling media back to useful clients. Media are far more likely to take ideas from PR professionals who know how to pitch reporters and what kind of stories will make an impact than individuals trying to conjure up any kind of media attention for their new venture.
While start-up companies can attempt to influence the media through social networking tools, it takes a substantial amount of work to learn who the big players are – especially when working with a variety of sectors and industries. Looking on Twitter, one reporter may tweet regularly and have thousands of followers, but isn’t responsive to messages on Twitter and must be contacted via email or phone to get in touch – something the average Twitter-er wouldn’t know.
And with so many different social media outlets to work through, it can be quite overwhelming. PR agencies help mitigate the onslaught of social media and news outlets in order to narrow it down to the most influential and likely sources for each particular client. Trying to target all the social media tools would be a nightmare.
PR agencies are still a vital part to media campaigns and the best way to get exposure. Even with the increased accessibility of journalists and publications through social media, companies cannot dedicate the necessary time it takes to learn all the ins and outs of social media etiquette and best practices. PR agencies that are well versed in the high-tech and social media areas are already equipped with such knowledge and contacts, thereby proving to be an invaluable resource when starting a company or launching a new campaign. PR agencies will certainly have to adapt to the evolving media sphere, but will always remain the main porthole.