Saturday, March 17, 2012

PR Revolves Around People

When I saw Brian Solis tweet that social media is about social science and not technology it piqued my interest and I knew it was a link I had to follow. Firstly, because I've studied the social sciences and I wanted to see how he would develop this point  but also because I firmly believe that social media, like public relations, is about people in the final analysis.

 Arguing that in new media we often put technology ahead of people, Solis said 77 per cent of  brand managers and marketers believed they knew who their social customer was although only 53 per cent had asked their customers what they wanted. According to Solis: "It’s time to get informed and emotional about customers. Doing so opens the doors to new touchpoints that are emerging and those that have already surfaced."

The idea of getting emotional about customers is not that far fetched and may indeed be a most advantageous practice. According to Nigel de Bussy in the SAGE Handbook on Public Relations, "engaging with stakeholders should be one of the most important core competencies of public relations". He notes that in customer oriented organizations managers believe the customer is king or queen and take the time to get to know them personally. Such organizations always listen to customers and they do everything possible to give them what they want.

As many organizations and even PR practitioners try to catch up or keep up with all the changes in technology and social media, many tend to focus on the number of "likes" their Facebook page gets or the number of times a message is retweeted. While these are not completely useless measurements, they fail to capture the experiences of customers and other publics. Is the organization meeting its public's needs? Are consumer concerns being addresed on social media fora in a timely manner?

 Michael Kent (also in the SAGE Handbook) suggests that the future of social media and PR lies in embracing technologies as tools capable of solving problems and engaging publics in real world issues. As it stands, he argues that we currently study tweets but not publics. I would suggest that organizations use social media as a way of continuing and enhancing their relationships with their publics instead of hoping that technology can create those very important linkages. Public relations and social media revolve around interaction and regardless of how technology evolves, the actions, thoughts and feelings of people remain key.


  1. We are brought up with identifying what we want and need out of the noise. We filter our thoughts and also the advertising and information we receive. It is therefore normal for us to filter the information and decide how and with who we want to relate in our “free” time while using social media. It is important to evaluate in any circumstance your campaign. And nowadays one can find a number of tools to measure your convergent media platforms. You can look at “likes” or at the amount of dialogue created about your brand. But as you mentioned it is very important to look at how the people actually interact with the technologies at hand and we can not consider that since the organisation is on a convergent platform the publics that actually consume it want to interact with it online.

  2. I totally agree for example there is a clear difference between persuading, tricking or bribing someone to like your brand and genuinely earning their “like”. However due to the nature or need to demonstrate the value a programme or campaign has added , combine with the fact that covering likes is a clear qualitative measurement make it all to tempting to cheat, rather than earn their “like”