Following our previous post on whether social media is an effective tool for public relations (PR) or not, this post will analyse if social media enables the fulfilment of a primary role of PR, which is fostering relationships.
One of the primary roles of public relations is to establish mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and its publics (Lattimore, Baskin, Heiman & Toth, 2012). Therefore, it is easy to see the correlation between this primary function of PR and social media, considering that social media is a technology that many individuals use to foster relationships worldwide. Thus, there is a high probability that a platform like social media could enable this primary task for PR professionals. But does it really?
First, we must adequately dissect these two contexts: the relationship between individuals as on social media and the relationship between an organisation and its publics as in public relations practice.
That individuals can build effective relationships on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter does not mean that the dynamics are the same regarding organisations or corporations.
For instance, you may be more willing to accept advice concerning a product or service from your friends and family than from the company itself on social media. Hence, how can a relationship be formed when people are wary of direct communications from unfamiliar organisations? This is the reason for the increase in the use of friends and word of mouth (WOM) by organisations on social media sites.
It is not that people are uninterested in what organisations have to say, but that they are more interested in companies that have been able to earn their trust over a period of time (see video).
So, for any “new” (based on an individual’s familiarity with the company) organisation, breaking through the clutter of information to one individual or groups of people is not as “black and white” as the celebrants of social media imply. This is the objective of the article written by Valentini (2014) and what she sought to communicate to readers.
In our next post, we’ll highlight another advantage of social media to the PR profession that Valentini criticised in her article. Again, you can read her full article here.
BY NGOZI ADIGHIBE