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Social Media Does Equal PR

many 3d humans with empty chat bubbles(version française ici)

We’ll blog in English for once because we’d like to answer an English post, hoping it will get some attention from its author on the other side of the ocean.

We’ve just gone through Social Media Does Not Equal PR by Stephanie Schwab, a very interesting point of view, broadly accepted and possibly in line with reality in many cases.

We think there is just one problem: it doesn’t correspond to our experience of PR at all. Let’s kill the suspense here: we believe PR is another legitimate way for companies to get “social”, and we‘ll try to explain why.

Let’s take the points detailed by Stephanie and answer them by looking at what we, at Aspect Consulting, have experienced by mixing PR and social activity over the past 3 three years.

PR: A single “hit” can make a difference – VS – Social Media: Typically needing a sustained effort to generate enough of a result to satisfy a client.

Even if it is true that being on Oprah in the US – or on the “Grand Journal” in France – can really help your brand to stand out, it is not correct to think that this is the end of the work.

First of all: this can only work for B2C brands. Secondly: it makes an instant difference, fair enough, but how do you leverage on that “hit” to build your reputation afterwards? That’s the main question.

We always implement yearly programs for our clients with regular actions throughout the year. We explain to them that the goal is not to make a big noise and then disappear (actually, media hates that). It is about creating confidence with your targets and building relationships. It sometimes takes several months to get good results, and most companies understand this.

PR: Can be based on relationships with few – VS – Social Media: Depends on relationships with many

True, PR is mainly based on good relations with influential journalists, politicians, experts, NGOs… And building relationships is based on time and continuous work.

But from our experience with social media, we see that approaching influential bloggers, community leaders, group or forum administrators etc is also very efficient. These relationships aren’t taken for granted, they need to be built with time and efforts, and based on mutual confidence. Of course, you can speak alone to every customer, even to all of them – which would indeed be many – without being supported by any web influencer but you won’t be much followed until you are endorsed. Even with social media, talking to many implies talking to few – at first.

PR: Needs an angle – VS Social Media: Needs a voice

True, but we’d say PR ideally needs an angle AND a voice. To be heard, you need the good angle and the good spokesperson, identified as an expert in his or her field. They can be deemed legitimate by tweeting/blogging, or being quoted in press articles, teaching in a university etc… it doesn’t make a difference.

No serious media would ever “buy” the expertise of “Mister Neverheardofyou”- so the Voice is an absolute requirement in PR as well.

PR: Mainly passive – VS Social Media: Can be active

Stephanie says that PR aims at generating coverage, but you have no idea if / how the article will have influence on the reader’s engagement with the brand (the best form of engagement being to buy).

One should not forget that a good PR campaign targets the right journalists in the right media with the appropriate material. The journalist should then pick up the story / product and make it known to its audience of voluntary readers / viewers / net surfers. These are people who are actively engaged with the topic as they chose to buy the magazine / select the channel / type the web site address into their browser. Isn’t – at least – as powerful as being contacted on Facebook – without specifically asking for – by “the brand” proposing you to try any widget?

For sure, when a brand uses social media to take care of a consumer problem, it can be even more efficient but how many brands have the resources to do so today? We’d say PR is always the strongest form of Opt-in marketing while social media can occasionally be.

PR: Can be turned on and off – VS Social: Must be sustained over time

As stated in the first point: PR cannot be turned on and off, at least when it aims at being efficient. To build confidence and relationships, it takes time and consistency. For sure PR is not so based in real time as Social Media, but to build and maintain awareness; brands have to feed the media with regular news – without turning off. And most brands engaged in Social Media don’t answer every consumer’s answer at the very minute. If it’s a tricky question, it can take a few days to prepare an appropriate answer. This does not equate to turning off social platforms.

As a conclusion, PR and Social Media do work with the same values and approach – as they are dialog-based means of communication. Neither is better than the other. But they work together to reach everybody with tailored messages – either through a favorite TV program or magazine / or on a Facebook profile.

We believe Media is one space- either social or not. And that’s our job.

Fabien Pecot and Francois Ramaget

3 Responses to “Social Media Does Equal PR

  • Fabien and Francois, thank you for your thoughtful response to my post. I don’t fundamentally disagree with you on any of your points and you make them well. True that « good » PR does all of the above and more – and should be completely integrated with social, as well as other marketing and communications efforts (and some would argue also with customer service/CRM, product development, HR, etc.). However, as not all social media is « good » social media, not all PR is « good » PR – and it’s that frustration which led to my post. And it’s maybe only a tiny bit exaggerated for effect 🙂

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