Social Media and PR Practice (Part 4): Beyond the critical reflection

Social Media and PR (Part 3): Direct Communication or Platform for General Information

In the last post, based on Valentini’s article, we analysed whether social media enables the fulfilment of a fundamental role of public relations (PR), which is fostering relationships (see the previous post). In this post, I’ll highlight another critique Valentini had about another acclaimed advantage of social media to the public relations profession.

According to the celebrants of social media, another advantage of social media to the public relations profession is that practitioners can communicate directly with their publics.

I think it is true that public relations persons no longer have to go through the traditional media (radio, television and print media) to communicate with stakeholders and staff, who are also part of an organisation’s publics. However, when consumers are involved, it may not be that simple.

Social Media and PR: Direct Communication or Platform for General Information

Communication is more than information (Valentini, 2014). Therefore, having a platform to relay messages directly to individuals does not imply that an organisation’s target audience would receive or decode that message (communication). In other words, placing an ad on social media or creating a post does not guarantee that those you are targetting would see it and interpret it with feedback or action.

Thus, when it is said that social media enables public relations practitioners to communicate directly with its publics, what does that even mean?

There are no guarantees that the information being transmitted would be seen by the target market. Even if it is seen, there must be feedback to connote that the information was indeed a communication process or an effective communication. Hence, this advantage is not absolute!

On the other hand, there is so much information on Social Networking Sites (SNSs) that people often just skim through these sites, mainly pausing when friends and family are involved in the interaction. So, one cannot absolutely say that social media allows public relations experts to communicate directly with customers. Sometimes, it works, and other times, it doesn’t. But, it’s not as clear cut as implied by the celebrants of social media.

Consequently, what is the conclusion of the matter? Keep watch for our next post as I strike a balance and conclude on this topic.


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