The way in which society functions today has been heavily influenced by the role new media plays in our everyday lives. This has resulted in a significant transformation across multiple industry professions, in particular public relations. Today’s multi-faceted media industry is full of risk and instability and as the role social media continues to rise it will impact people’s day to day lives. Multiple changes have occurred within the public relations industry as a direct result of social media, this along with a number of other key issues that have been an influence in shaping the way in which public relations now functions in cohesion with new media platforms. Social media is an ever evolving affordance meaning that it will continue to have an impact on various industries such as public relations, this case study aims to outline how the role of social media has shaped the industry thus far.
The way in which brands and companies deliver messages to their audience has shifted dramatically due to the role that social media plays in our everyday lives. This is supported by advertising expert Hank Wasiak “Social media has changed the way people interact amongst themselves and with their media,” It is important to take into the account the many benefits that these social media platforms afford us, it has had a quantifiable impact on the way in which organisations engage with consumers (Johansson, 2016). A recent example of social media facilitating a connection between the creator and audience can be seen through The Melbourne Metro system’s unconventional message for a PSA through the form of Dumb Ways to Die (DWTD), a three-minute animated song and game for iPhones and iPads which had a very clear message for its audience, “acting silly on a metro platform will get you killed, here’s how it happens.” The accompanied visuals assisted in the creation of viral content as the video and game scores had the ability to be shared across multiple social media platforms, thus creating engagement through the use of social media reaching the desired outcome of an important social safety message (Allagui, Breslow, 2016). Through the campaign it was also identified that creating spreadability across these media outlets would be key to its success. When looking at the success of this social media campaign it is evident that the engaging the audience through the use of social media has become much more of priority for a diverse range of organisations.
Source: B2B Marketing, 2014
It is evident that social media has caused a shift in what was once a standard business model where the industry had one primary gatekeeper. Whether this was the publication of a press release through a specific platform or liaising with members of the media to write an article piece, there was always a professional between the brand or organisation and the audience. As a result of social media this shifted to brands having the capacity to be more responsive and efficient. Large organisations such as Delta Airlines in the United States have utilized twitter to communicate to an approximate audience of 1.13 million, this platform is not only used for branding and marketing reasons but also their customer service. This has established a participatory culture among the audience where they have the capacity to voice their opinion, make comments and interact freely with Delta Airlines, in this instance audiences know that if they have a problem with a brand or company they can voice it over social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter and often receive a timely response in return (Allagui, Breslow, 2016). This has shifted the way in which customer service operates as it takes place via social media on a much larger scale and as a result businesses are able to maintain leaner departments that use time more efficiently.
As it can be seen a shift has occurred in the roles people play online, this has created what is known as an active audience, allowing “People to play multiple - sometimes simultaneous - roles as receivers, creators, critics, advocates, transformers and transmitters of messages.” (Johansson, 2016) As the pervasiveness of social media continues and the amount of networks available increases, audiences become more accustomed with brand interaction. This places a stronger emphasis on public relations professionals to have an understanding of social media. Companies and organisations have adapted to the current media landscape by having entire social media departments as a way to successfully manage their role on social media platforms (The Drum, 2012). Public relations professional Roxy Jacenko and owner of Sweaty Betty PR has established and maintained a successful career within the industry by acknowledging that the world of publicity is now about cross-pollinating social with traditional media (Powell, 2013). Media convergence has allowed Jacenko to utilize various technologies such as Instagram, Facebook and twitter in addition to traditional column inches. These technologies have also made way for a new business venture for Jacenko, The Ministry of Talent is Australia’s first management agency solely dedicated to creative talent and digital influencers.” The agency assists in shaping the careers of individuals across fields with a strong social media presence, from fashion and beauty to health and fitness (Jacenko, 2016). This can be seen as establishing new forms of networked identities in a way that is beneficial for both Jacenko as the business and these ‘talents’, as stated on The Ministry of Talent website “[we] anticipate new directions in consumer engagement, making connections and coordinating one of kind collaborations between talent and brands. From custom illustrations and artwork, sponsored blog and Instagram posts, video content, social media image creation.” (Jacenko, 2016) The domestication of social media and its affordances in the public relations industry has resulted in further opportunities being available to professionals such as Jacenko.
Source: Ministry of Talent, 2017
Social media has however, blurred the “firm boundaries between personal and professional identities” (Gregg, 2011) as networking has become a skill required to demonstrate one’s ability in the public relations industry. As today’s society becomes more adapted to the use of social media in the work place we begin to live in what is described by Dueze as Mediapolis meaning “a comprehensively mediated public space where media underpin and overarch the experiences and expressions of everyday life.” (Deuze, 2011) this can be further seen through not only how it effects one on a professional level but how that translates into one’s personal life which is known as presence bleed (Gregg, 2011). Due to the prominent role social media continues to play in the public relations industry it leads public relations professionals and audiences to “experience both an online and an offline presence simultaneously” (Comunello, Francesca, 2011) although this does appear to blur the lines of public and private individuals are continuing to adapt to the ever changing landscape that is social media.
As social media had established a prevalent role in today’s society it has evidently impacted multiple elements of the public relations industry. It has been outlined the ways in which social media has impacted the public relations industry from the shifts in how companies deliver messages to their audiences to how professionals have utilized social media from their own success. The apparent shift among companies and organizations demonstrates the way in which public relations professionals have adapted to these social media platforms. These changes have not only impacted the industry professionals but their audiences across these platforms. Adaption to these social media platforms is key in the future success for both professionals and audiences, the unpredictable nature of social media does not deny the fact that it is firmly embedded in the public relations industry and thus in our everyday lives.
- Allagui, I., & Breslow, H. (2017). Social media for public relations: Lessons from four effective cases. Sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 5 April 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811115001575
- Comunello, F. (2012). Networked sociability and individualism. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.
- Gregg, M. (2013). Work's Intimacy. Oxford: Wiley.
- Jacenko, R. (2017). About | Ministry of Talent. Theministryoftalent.com. Retrieved 7 April 2017, from http://theministryoftalent.com/the-team/
- Johansson, A. (2016). How Social Media Has Changed The Way That We Engage Consumers. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 April 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-johansson/how-social-media-has-changed-the-way-that-we-engage-consumers_b_9874242.html
- The impact of social media on public relations. (2012). The Drum. Retrieved 3 April 2017, from http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/03/21/impact-social-media-public-relations
- Powell, Rose. "Hard Work And Headlines". Business Chicks. N.p., 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
- Deuze, Mark. 2011 “Media Life.” Media, Culture & Society 33 (1): 137 - 148.