Home > Contemporary Theory and Issues in PR, Social and New Media > Public Relations, New and Social Media.

Public Relations, New and Social Media.

As a new decade dawns upon us, there is speculation of whether the PR Industry can handle the interactive platform that today’s technology offers to them. Currently, there are 23628 articles in PR Week related to social and new media, the oldest dating back to 1997. With this in mind, a recent article posted on PR Week revealed that only 6% of 4500 CV’s in the PR Industry contain reference to new media tools such as blogging and social media, creating hysteria amongst the PR Recruitment agencies. The news that a blogger was offered payment in return for favoruable feedback on a product by a practitioner resulted in a division in the PR Industry, highlighted by PR Week’s Polls, asking whether practitioners should be allowed to pay bloggers for favourable product coverage. Many argued that is was like advertising, paying for coverage. To some this is worrying, especially now that the interactive realms are changing everyday. 

Looking at the traditional relationship between the journalist and PR practitioner, it is fair to say that communications have in the past been tense but, in this report I will be discussing how the rise of the citizen journalist is affecting the PR Industry and what the future holds for the PR / Blogger online by observing two case studies. 

  • Kevin Braddock’s recent contraversial blog post regarding PR Proffesionals.
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies and the Guardian Online ‘You Ask, We Answer’ blogs. Neal’s Yard refused to answer.

Kevin Braddock

Kevin Braddock 

Just before the end of 2009, freelance journalist and online blogger, Kevin Braddock posted a list of, what he regarded as the PR Industry’s “‘most useless, incompetent PR people’ he had dealings with last year”[1]. The Times Online reported that Braddock compared them to being “only a notch above Nigerian banking spam in terms of usefulness”. Braddock’s main complaint was the blanket distribution of press releases to his inbox, and unsolicited, irrelevant emails. Given the fact that email addresses of the PRO’s were also published, this caused uproar with the individuals concerned. The post was deleted a few days later. His response to PR Week was, ‘I posted the blog because it’s a problem that many journalists have. I’ve since been contacted by people on the list who have apologised.[2]’ Braddock also highlighted that some comments left were of journalists and PRO’s agreeing with him. The division of the industry on this matter is emphasised by the current poll for PR Week asking ‘Is it okay for journalists/bloggers to name and shame persistent PR professionals?’ The results are currently 50 / 50[3]. This also highlights the potential need for a new discipline in the way the PR Industry interacts with citizen journalism. 

The main reason for Braddock’s post was the unnecessary emails he’d received. And highlighting this point was Shel Israel, Social Media Expert at the 2009 Lewis PR Social Media Channels Event. Interviewed by a PR Week journalist, Shel emphasised the concerns he had about the PR Industry’s rather traditional tactics in an interactive platform ‘There are a bunch of PR people who think that their job is to pitch and pitch and pitch and pitch and if they keep going on this route and keep up these practices and bring them into social media, I see a future for them in the restaurant service industry.[4]’ 

Israel makes a valid point. However, the question of why the PR industry is using the blogsphere as a two dimensional tool in a three dimensional environment needs to be addressed. 

I mentioned previously about the PR recruitment industry’s findings of less than 6% of 4500 PR CV’s containing social media key words such as, SEO, social media. Referring back to this article, Ros Kiderley of JFL Recruitment states that there are fewer candidates with social media skills, “’Everyone under 26 has excellent social media skills. It’s integral to what they do. For them, it’s a natural part of PR,”[5]

 

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the story of success in his book, Outliers (2009, Penguin). He analyses his 10000 hour theory, and theorises that it is this amount of time devoted to a hobby that is the tipping point to success. Is it possible to apply the same theory to the research JFL Recruitment has offered? Perhaps the reason why the PR Industry is stuck in this two dimensional platform is because that is what the company’s long serving managing directors have practised since starting their career. Currently dominating the PR Industry from the top of the pyramid are directors and CEO’s with substantial experience in practising the traditional PR and, although there are younger employees joining and contributing with their social media expertise, the overall face of PR social media will remain the same two dimensional pitch style, unless, according to Gladwell’s theory, someone with 10000 hours of social media expertise is at a senior level. 

Neal’s Yard

Attempts for the PR Industry to work alongside the blogsphere have been made, and most recently demonstrated by Neal’s Yard Remedies and The Guardian. Neal’s Yard agreed to participate in the Guardian Online’s regular ‘You Ask, We Answer’[6] features, but failed to respond to any of the comments which overall questioned their ethical practises in regards to the homeopathic products sold. With 214 comments left with no response, instead of working with the news, Neal’s Yard unwittingly became the news. 

Observing this case study it becomes evident that the roles were reversed. The guardian online being sufficiently more blog savvy than Neal’s Yard, acted as the agent / PRO in encouraging Neal’s Yard to participate. However, the tables turned once again when Neal’s Yard used traditional methods of ignoring controversial questions. The Guardian and readers were constantly probing the company for questions, the saga even making to twitter. 

In this case Miller’s theory that ‘“Public Relations and persuasion are two peas in a pod.”[7]’ was unsuccessful, although in hindsight, it was the persuasion of the public that sent Neal’s Yard into hibernation. 

Grunig, A New Model and The Internet Manifesto 

With reference to Grunig’s 4 symmetrical models of Public Relations, a new model could be created specifically for the purpose of operating within the social media realms of the PR Industry. This is suggested as it is emphasised in the Handbook of Public Relations, that ‘Leichty and Springsteen (1993) were among the first to point out that most organisations use a combination of the four models[8]. With this in mind, blogging on the internet has a global audience, and what the PR Industry needs is a better rapport with the citizen journalists as well as their readers. 

The Internet Manifesto[9], published in September 2009 was written by 15 German journalists and bloggers on how journalism works today. With 17 declarations, it places journalism in a multi faceted platform with the ever changing face of the internet. Declaration 12 reads, “Tradition is not a business model.” As a continually fast paced environment, it puzzles me as to why the PR Industry seems to do the opposite when it comes to matters of citizen journalism. 

The evidence points to the fact that bloggers, citizen journalists and online writers are a pivotal point for the modern day PR practitioner. The turn of the century gave rise to the domestic use of the internet as standard, and as the decade introduced itself, Kevin Braddock published a contraversial list of ‘difficult’ PR practitioners, email adresses included. Removing it a few days later, it caused uproar within the PR industry. 

From the recent article on PR Week, posted 13th January 2010, it is apt to confirm that the rise of the Citizen Journalist has had a massive impact on the PR Industry. Reviewing the speech Social Media Expert, Shel Israel gave at the 2009 Lewis PR Social Media Channels Event, it is also evident, and appropriate to say that what Social Media experience practitioners have, are of no satisfactory standard. Directors and Executives are waking up to the news that out of 4500 PR CV’s, a mere six percent make reference to Social Media and key words such as blogging and twitter are mentioned in no more than nine percent of the CV’s[10]. When a global society is built up around blogging, and sharing information over the internet, it is simply unfair that practitioners expect journalists to ply through inappropriate press releases. The introduction of a wire service is what will offer both the blogger and practitioner peace of mind, however does not allow the press release to reach it’s maximum potential. 

In conclusion, I agree with Shel Israel, that the PR Industry needs to rethink their online strategies, especially when concerning bloggers and cititzen journalists. 

Going back to the Internet Manifesto, tradition is not a business, and although visually it may seem as though PR is moving with the times because they are working on so many campaigns at any one time, Shel Israel is correct when stressing to the industry that social media is not a platform for pitching – it is a platform for being involved. The most interesting conversations occur on the comments of a blog, which is why Neal’s Yard had no control of the situation. Citizen journalists have created their own declarations on how they operate and referring back to the case studies it is clearly obvious that they have capitalised on the PR Industry’s weakness, this being the lack of knowledge of the interactive social media platform. 

In an ideal world a new model, similar to the Grunigans’, that takes on board the declarations of the Internet Manifesto should be created. Once this has been created, the generation of PR Practitioners with less than 10000 hours of experience in the blogging field, can be given direction, and their succesors will have a manifesto which operates under the law of the internet, gaining the respect of bloggers and journalists along the way.   

NB: since writng this – Grunig has posted an article where the Four Model’s of Public Relations have been adapted to the digital paradigms.

 


[1] http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article6977065.ece 

[2] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/975839/Controversial-list-PR-professionals-removed-journalist-blog/ 

[3] http://www.prweek.com/poll/ 

[4] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/966732/Shel-Israel-warns-PR-professionals-change-times/ 

[5] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/977200/Recruitment-consultants-find-digital-skills-short-supply-within-PR-industry/ 

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/may/26/you-ask-neals-yard-remedies 

[7] Robert L. Heath, Handbook of Public Relations (p.13) (2001) 

[8] Robert L.Heath, Handbook of Public Relations (p.13) (2001) 

[9] http://www.internet-manifesto.org/ 

[10] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/977200/Recruitment-consultants-find-digital-skills-short-supply-within-PR-industry/

Advertisements
  1. April 10, 2013 at 3:48 am

    There is certainly a lot to learn about this subject.
    I like all the points you’ve made.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: