A topic of debate for many a PR professional is whether Social Media has rendered public relations obsolete. I recently came across a video posted by Kara Swisher, a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and popular internet commentator, regarding a panel held in San Francisco to address this very question. The panel was in response to Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington, three controversial bloggers who had stirred the pot by suggesting that,
with the advent of social media sites, pr is no longer a necessary field/tool. The conclusion that the panel ultimately came to was that times change and pr tactics change with it. Of course a room full of pr people are not going to make a statement that their industry is dead, after all it is their bread-and-butter, but there is evidence to support their conclusion.
In an article entitled ‘The Nine Lives of Public Relations’, Don Wright, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, who is a professor of public relations at Boston University and editor of PRSA’s peer-reviewed PR Journal, mentioned to the author in 2009 that he estimates about 70% of all social media programs are driven by pr professionals. One can only imagine that that number has held steady or even increased over the years. Remember, public relations professionals are the guardians of the all-important message, and their purpose is to get the message, whatever it may be, to the right people in the right way. The benefits of social media with regard to public relations is that it allows one to bypass the traditional media outlets and disseminate a message directly to one’s target audience.
I believe social media will cause public relations professionals to become even more creative in how they operate and will produce even more employment opportunities for the tech savvy among us. 15 years ago companies were not concerned with hiring young professionals to exclusively manage their image online image. Now they are employing more and more young people as social media managers, essentially hired to tinker about on Facebook and Twitter for a living (of course their roles are more involved than that but you know what I mean!).
Social Media certainly hasn’t killed the PR star, in fact it may have given it new life.