The world of Public Relations has evolved immensely over the last few years and it is set to continue to change, well into the future. It is affected by mediums such as global communications, a shrinking market place and wider demographics. The rise of social media gives everyone and every brand the power to become a publisher. Giving small organisation the opportunity to manifest their own stories and gain exposure, without the aid of public relations practitioners. Technological, economical and geological changes also mean that the public relations sector is in a constant state of flux (Skelly, 2014). These factors definitely impact upon the landscape of public relations, but also raise new and exciting opportunities. In order for public relations practitioners to ensure their practices are still utilised within the new pr landscape, they need to adapt quickly to these new changes.
Despite the obvious changes within the public relations sector, pr practitioners still need to rely on theories to base their work on. Before the rise of social media, however, these theories were a lot more relevant to the field, pr practitioners relied heavily on disseminating information to the mass through messages and mediums. This way of operating is no longer as effective, despite there still being a need to communicate and manage relationships. Pr practitioners now need rely on creating two-way communication schemes, focusing primarily on creating a relationship that fosters for its publics (Porter, 2010). I definitely believe that although there is an obvious change in the way in which pr practitioners operate, the preexisting theories still have a lot of relevance to pr today. Practitioners still need to utilise these theories in their work, but they also need to adapt to the new pr landscape, but analysing and reacting to how social media is transforming the sector.
One of the biggest changes within the pr landscape is the fact that the audience now has an alarming influence on how organisations operate. The audience now has a prominent voice, that has the power to change how an organisation is perceived on a large scale. This new found power ignites consumers, as their opinions of organisations are now recognised. This can be an extremely positive thing for organisations, but it can also be extremely detrimental to their image.
An example of this occurred when the supermarket giant Coles, released a twitter competition, in an attempt to generate a conversation (Cook, 2012). The competition backfired and exposed the company to a whirlwind of negative comments from consumers. The competition urged costumers to complete the sentence “in my house it is not a crime to buy…” The supermarket was inundated with negative comments. Comments such as; “Food from markets while Coles exploits mental illness via pokies”, “In my house its a crime not to buy LOCALLY- and I don’t mean from a @coles supermarket” and “In my house it’s a crime not to buy… BREAD AND MILK AT PRICES THAT ALLOW PRIMARY PRODUCES TO SURVIVE!”. This exemplifies just how much power consumers have.
Before the rise of social media, publics were obviously entitled to voice their opinions on organisations, but these opinions more often then not went unnoticed. Now consumers have an enormous amount of power to voice their opinions. This means that companies need to be extremely wary of how their messages may be perceived, they also need to implement strategies and plans to resolve any crisis or issue that may result from a campaign released on social media.
Additionally, the measurement of the results of pr practices is changing. Data collection is an imperative tool to ensuring the success of a campaign, whether it is qualitative or quantitative. According to Rebekah Iliff, the Chief Strategy Officer for AirPR, companies who use data collection within their business are the most successful (Iliff, 2014). Companies still need rely on data to understand and predict what their publics needs and wants are. While the changes in public relations may seem overwhelming, I think they will only strengthen and improve the sector. Social media has influenced the way in which many sectors operate, for better and for worse. Practitioners need to evolve with the new media, but still incorporate traditional public relations theories into their practice.
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