In a recent Forbes article, Robert Wynne debated whether Public Relations would survive without Twitter. The article concluded that some PR professionals would struggle if Twitter were to disappear, whereas others would embrace the opportunity to go back to traditional forms of technology such as phones and email. However, with numerous other social media platforms, some new and some well-established, that PR professionals could turn to if Twitter were to cease to exist, what would happen if social media were no more? Would traditional PR survive?
The short answer is yes. The world of PR would not implode if social media died, but the it may just be like a car without a turbo-charge. Both PR professionals, journalists and audiences have adapted relatively quickly to rely on multiple social media channels, emphasised by Snap Inc’s news this week that 158 million people use the service each day. And social media platforms – particularly Twitter for B2B agencies – have created a new line of communication between PRs and journalists that didn’t exist before.
What would we miss if social media disappeared?
1. Speedy news turnaround
Social media has created a fast-paced platform for news. Journalist aside, whether it’s a trending topic, or appearing on Facebook’s news feed, social media has developed a way for PRs to find topical news quickly. Some journalists, for example, use hashtags like #journorequest to source comment via PR professionals, creating a whole new way for flacks and hacks to interact and communicate with each other. Without social media, PRs and not just journos would have fewer opportunities to spot breaking news without today’s proliferation of social media.
However, there is also an argument that a world without social media would enhance PR / journalist relationships by continuing to push the conversation, as per the old days, over the good old telephone, backed up by email.
2. Booming content
The majority of social media is free and accessible, making it a great research ground for PR teams developing and placing stories. Whether it’s blogs or articles, from either clients, media (or PRs), social media platforms are a great place to place personalised content. The blog platform itself, which also almost died a death post initial launch, came back to life because of social media, and the two thrive hand in hand now together.
The opposing view is that content has now become quantity over quality, and the battle to stand out is tougher. True – but this is a PR challenge we are happy to undertake, and actually helps us help our clients to stand out and differentiate from the crowd. So many different outlets mean you need to fine tune, tailor and target your content with a compelling message to seek out those in search of the answers.
3. Tracking coverage
Social media also allows PR professionals to track and expedite the reach of their clients’ coverage more easily. They can also measure it, using the metrics to determine an article’s reach by analysing how many shares, likes and retweets it has with a simple click – making it the perfect platform for reporting and demonstrating your content’s value.
Because of this, sharing a client’s content on social media adds their content into the news mix, making it an easily findable part of the online newstream. Taking social media away would push readers back onto news websites (or newspapers themselves), and while that’s no bad thing, coverage tracking and measurement would once again become a bigger challenge for PRs.
Social media, a two-sided story
Social media may have made the lives of PR professionals easier and more complicated at the same time, but with Twitter up for sale and mounting evidence that many people are reducing the time they spend on social media apps, or indeed, coming off social altogether, no doubt the debate will continue. In truth the answer probably that channels will come and go, but writing as a Gen Z-er in my peer group experience, it is now the go-to news source for many, so PR will have to continue to ride along and adapt the exciting journey.