It was the final debate in our ‘Contemporary Theory and Issues in PR’ class this week, and this was the debate I was most looking forward to, as it featured my favourite subject, social media (as you may have noticed). The debated statement was “Social media has helped put the public back in public relations; two-way conversations and content sharing have replaced the one-way publicity driven communications and media manipulation“.
I have to admit that I have always been a fond believer of social media being the key to open, two-way communication, and I was therefore relatively certain that little would change my opinion. Well, in regards to this statement, I was wrong, as the debating team presented some valid arguments to why social media is still being used as a one-way communication channel, which is actually also something I have discussed in a previous post.
I still believe that social media has transformed how businesses operate and people communicate today, but there are still a lot of improvement needed in some areas of the PR industry. For instance, I think that the social media module should be mandatory rather than optional in a MA public relations course (which is the case with University of Westminster), as we are getting insights and essential information about the how to manage the social media activities. Social media may seem uncomplicated at first glance, but there are many factors that you will need to consider, as the measurement of your skills are easily transparent through reviewing the digital platforms.
In the article “Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation”, the public relations theorist James Grunig has expressed that digital media has the chance to be used to make the PR profession more global, strategic, two-way and interactive, but that many practitioners are still using it in the same way they used the old. In this way, Grunig portraits that the same problems with PR still exist, just in another paradigm. In addition, Grunig explained that so many organisations are already involved in social media, which creates challenges for PR practitioners, as they need to have a deeper understanding of the new media to contribute with something essential for the organisations.
In view of this, I believe that it is essential for PR practitioners to understand that they must have a different communicative approach to social media, and not manage it exactly similar as traditional media. Social media open new opportunities to engage and communicate with important parts of an organisation/a representative, and every PR practitioner should get involved!
What are your thoughts about social media, do you believe that it is practiced efficiently in all PR sectors?