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To say social media has transformed our lives would be an understatement. Having a Facebook or Twitter profile is no longer a nice-to-have element; social media is much more than tracking down your high school crush or a long-lost cousin. Social media is an effective marketing and communication tool. Every brand’s strategy includes social media. An industry such as PR, which primarily is about communication and connections can ill-afford to ignore social media. Here are five ways in which social media has transformed public relations:

1.A two-way channel of communication

Yes, public relations is about helping organisations develop equations with their audience, but till the arrival of social media, this was a unidirectional exercise. It was the company’s messaging that was taken to the people and it was the company that decided what this messaging had to be. But with the coming of age of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the audience/customer base has the same leverage as the company. PR companies have had to take this into account and craft their strategy accordingly. Audiences now have a platform to offer feedback in real-time. This means a business/PR agency has to engage with audiences, and that makes it a two-way street.

2.Crisis and reputation management comes into sharper focus

Controversies or crises that blow up in no time are a direct fallout of the explosion of social media. We are all aware of the raging debates online these days about the CAB bill in India. When it comes to businesses, easy access to company handles means the audience doesn’t shy away from expressing opinions, whether positive or negative. PR professionals need to be more vigilant than ever to manage feedback and send out communication appropriately. PR pros also need to constantly monitor mentions of their brands and have a plan in place to respond and maintain brand reputation. In a sense, there is a blurring of lines among PR professionals, social media marketers and customer service executives — all of them have to work together (sometimes their roles could blur into each other’s) to ensure the right messaging goes out to the audience.

3.Greater access to journalists and opinion makers

Thanks to social media, PR professionals find it easier to reach out with ideas and communicate in real-time with journalists. This leads to quicker turnaround times, and it makes it easy for both journalists and PR professionals to interact with each other. Such an interaction can boost relationships and also productivity for PR pros.

4.Social platforms add to a PR firm’s content mix

The availability of a whole range of options, from Twitter and Facebook to Instagram means PR professionals can generate content that goes beyond the traditional press release. PR executives can now tweet comments of their clients or link to blogs/articles on social media. They could also use Instagram to post videos and images. Hashtag campaigns can help PR firms create an impact over a topic or article that needs attention from their audience.

5.Opportunity to leverage influencers/micro-influencers

The omnipresence of social media has led to the emergence of influencers and micro-influencers the latter with a smaller audience base. Sometimes, PR firms may need engagement from their immediate audience, and micro-influencers can play a role. Public relations professionals have begun to work with influencers and micro-influencers whose recommendations and opinions are taken seriously by their audience. It is important to make the right influencer choice — professionals need to consider carefully if the influencer is the right fit for the brand or its offerings. This is an efficient way for a PR firm to draw attention to a brand and its offerings that are worth talking about. These could be product/service launches, research or insights or partnerships.

Social media and PR are all about communication, and it is only logical then that PR professionals tap into the power of social media to make communication sharper and better. As a leading PR agency in Mumbai, Star Squared PR has been at the forefront of digital and social media for many years now championing the cause of client visibility through PR.