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Social Media + Public Relations = Social PR

Social PR: The Changed Landscape of Public Relations

PR isn’t as simple as two letters anymore. We exist in a digital landscape that provides us with bigger audiences, better tools, and more opportunities for connecting. Gone are the days of getting the post ready for the 5 o’clock pickup or sending the intern out to deliver a pitch. Brand ambassadors and social media now rule the marketing kingdom and there is no room for old-school PR. These days, PR includes social media, content marketing, search engine optimization, public relations, and many more arenas. PR professionals have adapted, reinvented themselves to include all these aspects.

Out with the old, in with the new

What has changed? Social networks became the main source of news and information for a vast majority of people. When was the last time you bought a New York Times? If you’re under the age of 30, it’s likely you never have. Over the big 3-0 and I’ll hedge a bet that if you do subscribe to a newspaper it’s only for the Sunday edition.

What we call traditional PR focuses on exposure offline, mainly through the distribution of press releases but also printed brochures and newsletters. Press conferences typically play role as well. As I’ve discussed before, press releases are now considered too formal. Publishers want content that is engaging and fun, not something that is confined to a five paragraph length and severely edited. Blog posts are the natural progression away from news releases. Blogs generate interest but in a way that doesn’t come off as a sales pitch.

Because readers don’t want to be sold. They want to connect. Today’s PR specialists focus on online presence; social media and digital communication tools mean they need never leave their desks. Social media is about collecting fans, creating advocates, and impacting audiences’ perspectives and opinions. Rather than trying to pitch a product or sway the opinion of a publisher, PR agencies are now looking to have an impression. Search engines, blogs, forums, and other online communication tools offer fresh new ways to gain exposure and connect. Media such as TV and radio and offline methods are left in the dust.

A traditional PR agency is concerned with conveying information to a large, diverse audience. There is little expectation of feedback. Social PR is no longer about spreading your message to a wide audience but instead focuses on creating a great experience that will leave a mark on the consumer. The scope may have changed, but PR is still about building relationships – with the media, publishers, and colleagues in the industry.

Content is king…distribution is queen

The one consistent, vital component between traditional PR and social PR campaigns is the need for unique content. On- or off- line, content is king. PR agencies, therefore, have upped their game when it comes to producing relevant and engaging content. In a field where there was once very rigid standards, there is now room for creativity. Press releases have been replaced by infographics, blogs, video, and case studies. If one is writing a press release, it will be optimized with keywords and links – you can put money on it. All social media content will also be optimized.

PR pros care about direct engagement with customers and the press. Social media networks are the optimal way to spread content.  Shareable, social media friendly content is a great way to invite engagement. Another strategy is the use of tagging and hashtags to connect with the media and influencers.

Social PR agencies ensure that a client’s website is ranking high in search engine results, meaning that quality links and optimized websites are critical. These rely on high quality, relevant content.

Traditionally, PR primarily targeted journalists. Today’s journalists say it is very important to be able to access a company’s social media networks, to be able to visit a business’s Facebook page, and to have access to photos, product information, the background of a company, and an organized online newsroom (all components of a great website). The press looks to platforms like Twitter to receive updates and business news; PR agencies acknowledge this and makes sure their clients have a strong social presence.

Measurable Results

We’ve seen how PR now encompasses social media, creative content, and SEO. By evolving to incorporate other digital marketing techniques, results are easier to measure. Stats on readership and circulation, which were important for traditional PR, have been replaced by page rank, the number of followers, unique visitors, page views, retweets, likes, shares…the list goes on.

There is a plethora of data to back up your PR efforts. It’s more quantifiable because of the various analytics tools. Every social media platform seems to have their own analytics tools that offer insights into how well published content is performing. Then there is Google Analytics and management softwares that also provide pertinent data for digital marketers to analyze. ROI is therefore easier to measure!


Some industries don’t adapt well to new technologies but it is safe to say that in general PR has adapted to the digital world. My hope is that if, for some strange reason, your PR agency isn’t incorporating social and digital tactics, this post will convince you that a change is needed. It’s 2016, folks, not 1996.

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