Social media is where what we in journalism used to call news and feature content now plays out.
In many respects, it is the media, because that is where most people access content or where they are directed through to content.
In terms of communications and marketing, you only have to look at PRWeek’s content over the past week to get a full flavor of all of this in action.
This ranges from stories about Auntie Anne’s unveiling of a Snapchat filter-inspired new logo, McDonald’s building a team of in-house storytellers, a tall story about Toys "R" Us aligning itself with April the Giraffe, Synergy Pharmaceuticals promoting its new constipation drug Trulance using Poop Troop emojis, Squatty Potty looking to benefit from Starbucks’ debut of its new Unicorn Frappuccin drink, and Burger King adding advertising material to its Wikipedia entry.
Other content this week pointed out the potential pitfalls of operating in this new environment, such as the FTC once again cracking down on influencers and the way they signal their content is sponsored by brands, dealing with bogus influencers, and Instagram "follower bot" Instagress being forced to close by the Facebook-owned picture-sharing platform.
It is where stories exist and, as such, every PR pro needs to understand how to play in this sand pit. They need to know how to optimize the vast opportunities social media opens up, as well as understanding the inherent risks involved in doing anything online, as well as how to handle crises such as those recently experienced by Pepsi, United Airlines, and Adidas when they emerge.
The other interesting thing about the above content is that, while it is published via PRWeek U.S., some of it comes from our U.K. colleagues; some comes from our sibling in the advertising space, Campaign; or from our colleagues at MM&M (Medical Marketing & Media) or DMNews.
It could come from the States, Europe, Asia, or elsewhere. That’s also the nature of modern media and social media – it is multidiscipline, integrated, and global.
Back to social media and, without wishing to downplay the potential for creativity in this new environment, it’s clear whether you're in advertising, PR, media, digital, direct marketing, or healthcare the playbook is still being written on all this stuff. And it’s evolving constantly.
I interviewed Andy Pray, the founder of Praytell, PRWeek’s Outstanding Small Agency in 2017, for the latest edition of The PR Week podcast and he had a fascinating take on it.
Praytell had the advantage of not having legacy or scale issues to deal with when it was establishing itself. It wasn’t turning around a tanker that had been going in one direction for decades and now needed to set off on a number of new paths concurrently.
As he explains it, when setting up his firm it wasn’t a question of being integrated or of doing social or paid – it was a case of "of course you do." He calls it serendipity rather than having an identity crisis about "who are we?" and "what do we do?"
You can hear the full interview here, but the great thing about Praytell is that it still proudly describes itself as a PR agency. Because, despite the new environments they need to handle and the new world they live in, PR folks are used to being nimble and adaptable and acting fast.
They’re uniquely placed to take advantage of these new social opportunities and to deal with any fallout that emerges. This is their time.
"Let’s stop wasting energy talking about what PR is, and let’s just do it," says Pray - and I couldn’t agree more.