PR industry reacts to social media hype

Agencies and the brands they represent are going social media crazy. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn each present a whole new source of income for PR agencies and brands that are vying for a stronger presence on these social media networks.

Agencies and the brands they represent are going social media crazy. Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn each present a whole new source of income for PR agencies and brands that are vying for a stronger presence on these social media networks.

With this in mind, a number of PR agencies are re-branding themselves as social media agencies, eliminating any and all references to traditional PR from their names and websites. The conversation has shifted to the number of followers, tweets, and posts obtained, which is now core to any new business e-pitch, while traditional PR services such as storytelling, content creation and message development, and publicity are a secondary program or an afterthought.

However, it's important for us not to lose sight of the unmatched value we bring as PR professionals in helping companies shape and tell their stories in compelling ways that motivate action, awareness, social activity, and sales. The platforms we use to broadcast these stories to reach our clients target audiences and any number of stakeholders may vary, but the core services we provide go unchanged. Social media is just another media platform – like TV, radio, the Internet, and print - that we as PR professionals have the best expertise and experience to exploit.

Let's not lose sight that PR feeds social media channels through the content we create and initiate. Anyone can buy followers, monitor online conversations, and post news articles we secure, but what they can't buy is the third-party influence, validation, and credibility that editorial coverage provides. Earned publicity is still the most effective influencer of consumer trust.

A PR professional's expertise is essential to a winning social media strategy to:

  1. Educate and offer advice on how to build, manage, and execute strategic programs that go beyond our traditional scope of work;
  2. Generate significant revenue in paid media;
  3. Cultivate relationships with editorial influencers more effectively;
  4. Compete with the advertising industry for marketing dollars.

Further, thanks to social media, there's a major blurring of the lines with whom – among advertising, PR, and marketing agencies, the clients should engage and spend their marketing budgets with. In the past, advertising agencies not only had an established presence at corporate executive strategy sessions – the proverbial seat at the table – they also got the lion's share of the marketing budgets. By presenting our expertise as PR professionals, we stand a stronger chance of getting the social media dollars.

It can be argued that our industry is at a crossroads where art meets science. The art of being able to sell and tell a client's story can now be finally measured to evaluate our effectiveness. Chalk this up as a positive and don't sell yourself or your agency short by failing to use social media as an opportunity to showcase your PR chops.

David Bray is the founder of dbray Media. He was previously an EVP and principal at Middleberg Communications.

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