Is social media hindering us?

I just got back from our PRSSA National Assembly in Seattle and had an AWESOME time!! I love conferences because of the energy and shared knowledge people have because we all have the same interests and passions!

One thing I am honestly kind of tired of hearing about is social media everywhere, all the time. Now I love social media, I really do, but I think it is time for us to get creative and think outside of social media too.

At our National Assembly, I ran for the position of Vice President of Public Relations. The  responsibilities include the following:

  • Promoting and managing mutually beneficial relationships, both internally and externally, between PRSSA and its publics.
  • Issuing press releases and the Biweekly Update.
  • Managing Chapter News.
  • Publishing the PRSSA Annual Report.
  • Managing and promoting the PRSSA Style Guide and PRSSA Graphic Standards manual.
  • Managing PRSSA social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn).
Click to go to PRSSA website.

While managing the social media for PRSSA is important, that is not the only thing I will be doing. Chapter news, press releases, the Biweekly update and more are also a part of this position.

Most of the questions asked at National Assembly about this position were social media questions. As PR professionals, we are exactly that: public relations. Will social media eventually become a major? Probably. For now though, public relations is what we are doing. Can that include social media? Yes, but it is not the majority of what we do and I think that is a good thing to keep in mind.

I was so proud of the breakout sessions because they were not about social media, they were about branding, building your Chapter and ethics! GREAT sessions to focus on, besides just social media.

 

FAVORITE question I’ve ever been asked [from Social Fresh Tampa conference]:

Where would your personal brand or your company be today if Facebook and Twitter disappeared tomorrow?


I think that’s a question that everyone really does need to think about. If we did not have FB and Twitter tomorrow, how interactive or present would you be online? Would you have your pictures, contacts, etc. on another website so you would still have them?

While I believe social media is important, it is not the end all be all.

As I was once told, “It’s not a cultural revolution – it’s just PR and marketing evolving.”

Click image for original location.

This is just something to think about when you are in your next client meeting, organization meeting, company meeting and it’s 100% focused on social media. There are other tools, other mediums and other platforms out there for communication and creativity.

Does everyone need to be on social media? Absolutely not, do what’s best for your business/organization/society. Target your key markets and see where your publics are. Do an analysis and do research for social media plan before you start. Remember, once you start, it will be ongoing and it will require more effort to continue to contribute to your new social media platforms.

 

As public relations students and professionals, we are supposed to be creative! Let’s start stepping OUTSIDE the box and let’s think about more than just social media.

42 thoughts on “Is social media hindering us?

  1. Lauren,
    Great insight! I completely agree. Social media is simply a tool, but it is not the end all be all of Public Relations.
    I think my professor said it best when she said, PR is all about reading, writing, and relationships.
    Loved meeting you this weekend!
    Bethany

  2. Lauren,Great insight! I completely agree. Social media is simply a tool, but it is not the end all be all of Public Relations.
    I think my professor said it best when she said, PR is all about reading, writing, and relationships.
    Loved meeting you this weekend!
    Bethany

  3. What a great quote – “It’s not a cultural revolution – it’s just PR and marketing evolving.” Makes me glad I chose PR as my career!

    You’re right about social media not being the end all be all; there are many other crucial elements to public relations like the responsibilities you mentioned. While social media may be very important, I think a balance is needed.

  4. What a great quote – “It’s not a cultural revolution – it’s just PR and marketing evolving.” Makes me glad I chose PR as my career!
    You’re right about social media not being the end all be all; there are many other crucial elements to public relations like the responsibilities you mentioned. While social media may be very important, I think a balance is needed.

  5. Great post – and not just because I’m quoted. 😉

    As for the FB/Twitter question, well, we did quite well doing community relations prior and we will with whatever the next tool is out there.

    Back when I started, I worked with a digital camera maker (15 years ago – the top line one was $45K). We reached out to enthusiast websites (now just call them blogs) and Usenet targeting photographers and photojournalists, as well as trade publications. We reached the right people.

    Now it’s the same – we use the newsrooms on our sites, tell the story with press and bloggers. Yes, FB and Twitter are part of it but something new will come along.

    1. I use a lot of your quotes Jeremy! :]

      Something new really will come along and it’s SO important to work with actual websites and newsrooms to get information out there – not just social media sites. Thanks for commenting and readying Jeremy!

      -Lauren

  6. Great post – and not just because I’m quoted. 😉
    As for the FB/Twitter question, well, we did quite well doing community relations prior and we will with whatever the next tool is out there.
    Back when I started, I worked with a digital camera maker (15 years ago – the top line one was $45K). We reached out to enthusiast websites (now just call them blogs) and Usenet targeting photographers and photojournalists, as well as trade publications. We reached the right people.
    Now it’s the same – we use the newsrooms on our sites, tell the story with press and bloggers. Yes, FB and Twitter are part of it but something new will come along.

    1. I use a lot of your quotes Jeremy! :]
      Something new really will come along and it’s SO important to work with actual websites and newsrooms to get information out there – not just social media sites. Thanks for commenting and readying Jeremy!
      -Lauren

  7. Lauren,

    I so love that you said two things:

    1. “Mutally beneficial relationships”
    2. Where would your personal brand or your company be today if Facebook and Twitter disappeared tomorrow?

    As Jeremy and I have discussed, PR needs fixing. And the one major thing that needs fixing is understanding that PR is about two-way MUTUAL relationships with the publics that can help or hinder success.

    Social media is definitely calling PR professionals to task there.

    As for personal branding… I’ll steal a Jeremyism. MEH.

    Not a fan for so many reasons and your question is probably the number one reason why. If a “personal brand” (or corporate brand) relies on social media tools to be a brand… You don’t have a brand to begin with.

    PR professionals need to get back the roots of PR and social media (the concept) is a force that is still to be reckoned with.

    Cheers,
    Beth Harte
    @bethharte

    1. Thank you Beth! I definitely agree with everything you just said above. We need to get back to the roots of PR and we are not all about social media. I love your “I’ll steal a Jeremyism. MEH.” He says that SO much!! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      -Lauren

  8. Lauren,
    I so love that you said two things:
    1. “Mutally beneficial relationships”
    2. Where would your personal brand or your company be today if Facebook and Twitter disappeared tomorrow?
    As Jeremy and I have discussed, PR needs fixing. And the one major thing that needs fixing is understanding that PR is about two-way MUTUAL relationships with the publics that can help or hinder success.
    Social media is definitely calling PR professionals to task there.
    As for personal branding… I’ll steal a Jeremyism. MEH.
    Not a fan for so many reasons and your question is probably the number one reason why. If a “personal brand” (or corporate brand) relies on social media tools to be a brand… You don’t have a brand to begin with.
    PR professionals need to get back the roots of PR and social media (the concept) is a force that is still to be reckoned with.
    Cheers,
    Beth Harte
    @bethharte

    1. Thank you Beth! I definitely agree with everything you just said above. We need to get back to the roots of PR and we are not all about social media. I love your “I’ll steal a Jeremyism. MEH.” He says that SO much!! Thanks for reading and commenting!
      -Lauren

  9. I use a similar question to your favorite to help companies realize what social media should ultimately be doing for their business:

    If Facebook and Twitter did not exist tomorrow, what would be the biggest growth area in your marketing plan? Many times they answer a blog, or email, or events. Now this is not the end all of wow moments or anything, but it always gets them thinking about the space in the right way. Moving the trees out of the way so we can see the forest.

    1. Thank you Jason! That question came from one of the panelists [I don’t remember which one] during Social Fresh and it has REALLY stuck with me! Great questions for all of us to review and really think about. Thanks for commenting and reading :]

      -Lauren

  10. I use a similar question to your favorite to help companies realize what social media should ultimately be doing for their business:
    If Facebook and Twitter did not exist tomorrow, what would be the biggest growth area in your marketing plan? Many times they answer a blog, or email, or events. Now this is not the end all of wow moments or anything, but it always gets them thinking about the space in the right way. Moving the trees out of the way so we can see the forest.

    1. Thank you Jason! That question came from one of the panelists [I don’t remember which one] during Social Fresh and it has REALLY stuck with me! Great questions for all of us to review and really think about. Thanks for commenting and reading :]
      -Lauren

  11. Jeremy and Beth are eleventy billion times smarter than me, and have spoken my thoughts far more eloquently than I could. I will add this. I think what many people are currently calling “personal branding” is really their personal reputation. That happens both online and offline; and offline is where many new PR professionals are lacking in skills. Actual human interaction.

    That said, great post. Your thoughts are an absolute bullseye.

    MLC

    @MattLaCasse

    1. Matt you are wonderful and no one here is any billion times smarter than the other and we all can learn from each other :] I also agree with you about the “personal branding” being more of a reputation and I’m really seeing more of it.

      Thank you for your thoughts and for reading and commenting!!

      -Lauren

  12. Jeremy and Beth are eleventy billion times smarter than me, and have spoken my thoughts far more eloquently than I could. I will add this. I think what many people are currently calling “personal branding” is really their personal reputation. That happens both online and offline; and offline is where many new PR professionals are lacking in skills. Actual human interaction.
    That said, great post. Your thoughts are an absolute bullseye.
    MLC
    @MattLaCasse

    1. Matt you are wonderful and no one here is any billion times smarter than the other and we all can learn from each other :] I also agree with you about the “personal branding” being more of a reputation and I’m really seeing more of it.
      Thank you for your thoughts and for reading and commenting!!
      -Lauren

  13. I believe that a strong public relations or communications program is built around three pillars – the target audience, the key messages and available resources (usually meaning budget). These factors drive everything you do. If you determine your audience only consumes social media and that you can deliver key messages effectively through those channels, then it would make sense to limit yourselves to those media. However, I cannot think of a single situation where that is true.

    To make a deeper analysis, in my opinion, most social media activities lack the credibility required to effectively change perceptions or attitudes by themselves. Those media are primarily information delivery tools (albeit very effective – and interactive – tools). In a way, they replace/supplement the simple news releases that so many of us were sending out daily a decade ago. When it comes to thought leadership and establishing an organization above the competition, there are much more effective communication channels (bylined articles, trade shows, press conferences, Web sites, media tours, etc).

    One last note to new(er) PR professionals – it is easy to get wrapped up in social media and forget that the most important tools you have are your relationships with journalists and thought leaders. You can develop some of those through tweets, blogs, Webinars, etc, but there is no replacement for actually talking to (or meeting face to face with) editors. It may seem daunting and even scary at times, but you have to turn away from the computer and pick up the phone.

    1. Hi Mike! Thank you for reading and for checking out my website!

      I’m glad you gave us some really good examples of cases where we do need social media and where social media is not the first thing to think about.

      I also REALLY agree that “the most important tools you have are your relationships with journalists and thought leaders.” I absolutely agree with this and I think more focus definitely needs to be put on this.

      I know I even hate making phone calls sometimes to ask for information and such, I would rather just send an email, and that’s something I need to work on.

      -Lauren

  14. I believe that a strong public relations or communications program is built around three pillars – the target audience, the key messages and available resources (usually meaning budget). These factors drive everything you do. If you determine your audience only consumes social media and that you can deliver key messages effectively through those channels, then it would make sense to limit yourselves to those media. However, I cannot think of a single situation where that is true.
    To make a deeper analysis, in my opinion, most social media activities lack the credibility required to effectively change perceptions or attitudes by themselves. Those media are primarily information delivery tools (albeit very effective – and interactive – tools). In a way, they replace/supplement the simple news releases that so many of us were sending out daily a decade ago. When it comes to thought leadership and establishing an organization above the competition, there are much more effective communication channels (bylined articles, trade shows, press conferences, Web sites, media tours, etc).
    One last note to new(er) PR professionals – it is easy to get wrapped up in social media and forget that the most important tools you have are your relationships with journalists and thought leaders. You can develop some of those through tweets, blogs, Webinars, etc, but there is no replacement for actually talking to (or meeting face to face with) editors. It may seem daunting and even scary at times, but you have to turn away from the computer and pick up the phone.

    1. Hi Mike! Thank you for reading and for checking out my website!
      I’m glad you gave us some really good examples of cases where we do need social media and where social media is not the first thing to think about.
      I also REALLY agree that “the most important tools you have are your relationships with journalists and thought leaders.” I absolutely agree with this and I think more focus definitely needs to be put on this.
      I know I even hate making phone calls sometimes to ask for information and such, I would rather just send an email, and that’s something I need to work on.
      -Lauren

  15. I’m going to be the one to disagree here. First and foremost I think that to say that social media is JUST the evolution of PR and marketing and NOT a cultural revolution is short-sighted. Social media does not fit inside of PR or Marketing, PR and Marketing fit inside of social media. The implications of a two way dialogue world wide IS a cultural revolution and we needn’t look much further than the middle east.
    As for social media hindering PR professionals, my experience has been that while it is indeed a topic that wont seem to go away and dominates every discussion it because people haven’t quite figured it out yet. My former PR agency looked at Social Media through the eyes of traditional PR and that is precisely why they didn’t “get it.”.
    I don’t think that diverting attention away from social media is going to help anyone get more effective at successfully implementing social media into a PR campaign. I think before stepping out of the box we need more people being successful in the box.

    1. Jeff,
      While I disagree with your whole first paragraph, respectively, I understand that we do need more people being successful “in the box,” but we also need to remember that social media is not the first place to start for a PR campaign and PR and Marketing are not just social media.
      Not everyone or every company needs social media and it’s not a good option for every single company or person.
      -Lauren

    2. Sorry Jeff. I’m looking at this from 15-year experiences in public relations (so the past), as well as the big picture (from experience and understanding of both the agency life and in-house life) based on my background in philosophy (for reference, pick up Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to understand paradigm shifts and revolutions).
      Social media isn’t a huge paradigm shift; it’s simply an evolution of the tools we already have. You speak about it like it’s some magic formula, while community relations and dialogue have ALWAYS been a part of public relations. While some firms have admittedly lost sight of that and became press relations shops, social media has awakened that slumbering giant. Now your point on marketing being one way is one point, but if you notice, most marketing social media efforts are pretty heavy handed.
      Now, if you want to talk about the Middle East, it’s less social media that has helped these revolutions, and more the availability of mobile phones. Read the New Yorker’s profile on Mo Ibrahim to get a better picture of that story.

      1. I think Jeremy captured it well, but I want to add a little more. I don’t think social media can be called a revolution either – either culturally or as it relates to our industry. People have been communicating interactively for as long as there have been people.
        In our industry, we see this manifest in pitch calls, meetings (like the one Lauren went to for PRSSA), trade shows, site visits, media tours, media events, community outreach and probably another dozen I have forgotten as I write this. While extremely powerful, social media represent just another way for those people to interact. And, like all of the examples listed above, it has advantages (cheap, fast interaction) and disadvantages (lack of credibility, no editorial filter, easy to abuse/misrepresent).
        I conduct social media campaigns on behalf of my clients, so I understand the value of these media – but never at the expense of the tried and true basics.
        Again, in the hands of a good PR pro, the phone is a much more powerful tool than the keyboard.
        As far as culturally, I think the revolution came with the advent of the Internet (much like the phone, television and printing press before it). Social media simply represents the natural progression of that medium.

        1. You hit the nail on the head Mike.
          I think the biggest issue with PR 2.0 for me (a huge one) is that we’re not really at 2.0 and way beyond if you count how we’ve done the work.
          The phone is SO important, as is F2F conversations. This current generation of PR people seems to be phone-shy, which is bad/sad.

          1. Mike & Jeremy –
            I love both of your points and thank you for explaining your opinions further. I agree with all of the above!
            I think interaction has always been necessary and an important part of us as people and of us as PR people. Social media has changed this a little yes, but it’s not everything we do and everything we are.
            F2F and phone still important!
            -Lauren

  16. I’m going to be the one to disagree here. First and foremost I think that to say that social media is JUST the evolution of PR and marketing and NOT a cultural revolution is short-sighted. Social media does not fit inside of PR or Marketing, PR and Marketing fit inside of social media. The implications of a two way dialogue world wide IS a cultural revolution and we needn’t look much further than the middle east.

    As for social media hindering PR professionals, my experience has been that while it is indeed a topic that wont seem to go away and dominates every discussion it because people haven’t quite figured it out yet. My former PR agency looked at Social Media through the eyes of traditional PR and that is precisely why they didn’t “get it.”.

    I don’t think that diverting attention away from social media is going to help anyone get more effective at successfully implementing social media into a PR campaign. I think before stepping out of the box we need more people being successful in the box.

    1. Jeff,

      While I disagree with your whole first paragraph, respectively, I understand that we do need more people being successful “in the box,” but we also need to remember that social media is not the first place to start for a PR campaign and PR and Marketing are not just social media.

      Not everyone or every company needs social media and it’s not a good option for every single company or person.

      -Lauren

    2. Sorry Jeff. I’m looking at this from 15-year experiences in public relations (so the past), as well as the big picture (from experience and understanding of both the agency life and in-house life) based on my background in philosophy (for reference, pick up Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” to understand paradigm shifts and revolutions).

      Social media isn’t a huge paradigm shift; it’s simply an evolution of the tools we already have. You speak about it like it’s some magic formula, while community relations and dialogue have ALWAYS been a part of public relations. While some firms have admittedly lost sight of that and became press relations shops, social media has awakened that slumbering giant. Now your point on marketing being one way is one point, but if you notice, most marketing social media efforts are pretty heavy handed.

      Now, if you want to talk about the Middle East, it’s less social media that has helped these revolutions, and more the availability of mobile phones. Read the New Yorker’s profile on Mo Ibrahim to get a better picture of that story.

      1. I think Jeremy captured it well, but I want to add a little more. I don’t think social media can be called a revolution either – either culturally or as it relates to our industry. People have been communicating interactively for as long as there have been people.

        In our industry, we see this manifest in pitch calls, meetings (like the one Lauren went to for PRSSA), trade shows, site visits, media tours, media events, community outreach and probably another dozen I have forgotten as I write this. While extremely powerful, social media represent just another way for those people to interact. And, like all of the examples listed above, it has advantages (cheap, fast interaction) and disadvantages (lack of credibility, no editorial filter, easy to abuse/misrepresent).

        I conduct social media campaigns on behalf of my clients, so I understand the value of these media – but never at the expense of the tried and true basics.

        Again, in the hands of a good PR pro, the phone is a much more powerful tool than the keyboard.

        As far as culturally, I think the revolution came with the advent of the Internet (much like the phone, television and printing press before it). Social media simply represents the natural progression of that medium.

        1. You hit the nail on the head Mike.

          I think the biggest issue with PR 2.0 for me (a huge one) is that we’re not really at 2.0 and way beyond if you count how we’ve done the work.

          The phone is SO important, as is F2F conversations. This current generation of PR people seems to be phone-shy, which is bad/sad.

          1. Mike & Jeremy –

            I love both of your points and thank you for explaining your opinions further. I agree with all of the above!

            I think interaction has always been necessary and an important part of us as people and of us as PR people. Social media has changed this a little yes, but it’s not everything we do and everything we are.

            F2F and phone still important!

            -Lauren

  17. […] the two discuss a post written by Lauren K. Gray titled “Is social media hindering us?” Jen mentions that social media continues to dominate the discussion in PR and Marketing […]

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