Social Media and PR

I believe that social media has played a huge role in reformulating the PR and advertising strategies of media conglomerates. Deuze (2007) says “What people are doing online is a good indicator of how everyday life for a working professional (or those seeking to become one) in today’s capitalist economy has changed” (as cited in Vujnovic & Kruckeberg, 2011). Therefore, brands are engaging others online in not only who they are, but also who they desire to be. On Facebook, people will “Like” brands that they not only like, but also brands that their friends “Like” or they want their “friends” to think they like. This also has implications for global audiences. The global community can form and organize on social media and create virtual communities. The public is defined as a group of individuals bonded by a common interest (Vujnovic & Kruckeberg, 2011). There are many different types of “publics”, also called stakeholders that a company should consider in their PR strategy. Vujnovic & Kruckeberg (2011) state that companies should look beyond the strategic public, which has been a focus in the past, and look at society as a whole.

Vujnovic & Kruckeberg (2011) also state that online social networks tend to be more private, but they are trending towards connectivity. They also say that companies should use these tools to expand globally and engage in participatory conversation. I disagree with Vujnovic and Kruckeberg on this point. I do not believe that social media is private at all. I think that social media is designed and used for life to be lived publically. I don’t think that the lives people create on social media are authentic and I don’t think that companies should have a presence on social media for the purpose of growing their business. I also don’t agree with Vujnovic and Kruckeberg that social media lends itself to “organic” interaction between the public and organizations.

I have several reasons why I feel this way. First, I don’t believe that people are their authentic selves on social media. I think that most people craft an image of who the want to be. Therefore companies cant engage in an authentic “organic” dialogue with a false self. Secondly, if a company sets up a social media presence for the sole purpose of growing their business globally, they will fail. People can sniff out inauthenticity and if a company just wants to sell a product, others will catch on to that. Third, I don’t buy that a company wants to have a true organic “dialogue” with their global audience. They want to sell their product. They want others to “like” their page and “share” content. However, companies should be careful what they ask for. Look at recent twitter fails by big brands, such as Kenneth Cole, who made light of war just to sell shoes (Carey, 2013). Don’t forget about the gaffe from JP Morgan who started the twitter hashtag #AskJPM to encourage their customers to ask them questions. Their hashtag was hijacked and they received hundreds of tweets from people who asked questions about their questionable business practices. They company cancelled their planned Q&A and hasn’t launched a similar series since (Barak & Pavelski, 2013). The common thread among all of these examples is that companies aren’t truly interested in engaging with a global audience, they want to use social media as another channel to sell their products.

 

What do think about Grunig’s strategic management behavioral paradigm, which is discussed in the reading titled: “Paradigms of Global Public Relations in an Age of Digitalization”? Do you think this paradigm is useful in interpreting the role of members of the public as stakeholders and in building relations between the public and organizations, particularly in the virtual world? Please justify your answer.

 

Grunig (2009) says “many practitioners are using the new media in the same ways they used the old – as a means of dumping messages on the general population rather than as a strategic means of interacting with publics and bringing information from the environment into organizational decision-making,” (p. 1). I couldn’t agree with Grunig more. Companies are using social media irresponsibly and they’re carelessly communicating to the broad population rather than engaging and interacting with the public in a meaningful way. Just as I said in my response to the earlier question, companies can’t use social media as a channel to sell their products. If they engage in social media only to evaluate their ROI, sales and bottom line, they need to not engage. I absolutely believe that Grunig’s strategic management behavioral paradigm is useful in interpreting the role of members of the public as stakeholders and in building relationships between the public and organizations. I believe this because of several of the components of the theory. One of the components I agree with the most is the fundamental principle that digital media doesn’t need to change the principles of public relations, but rather new media facilitates the application of the principles (Grunig, 2009). Just because there is a new channel available to communicate and market products, doesn’t mean that a completely new strategy should be developed. It’s simply another channel to use in ones’ public relations strategy.

Another component of Grunig’s (2009) theory that I agree with is the fact that public relations professionals and journalists no longer control the flow of information. As Grunig says, “Anyone can be a journalist” (p. 4). Anyone with an Internet connection can start a blog and have a platform to engage with the public. This puts less control in the hands of the company and more in the public. This illusion of control comes from the historic views of public relations where practitioners believed that they had control over the message that was being delivered. However, Grunig says that he believes practitioners never had this control. Either way, companies definitely don’t have control over the messages about their company in today’s networked society.

I also agree with Grunig (2009) that the conversations are taking place across social media. Organizations can now use social media to join the conversations. However, I think that organizations should be careful in when and how they engage in this dialogue. Just as we saw in the JP Morgan example I shared earlier, when a company starts or joins a conversation on social media, they are opening the dialogue to understand what others truly think. Another example of a social media campaign gone wrong is the #AskThicke hashtag that musical artist Robin Thicke tried to get started this year. He wanted fans to engage in a dialogue, but instead others hijacked the link and called Thicke out on his disrespectful treatment towards women (Brooks, 2014).

The bottom line of Grunig’s (2009) research is that digital media can change the way public relations is managed, but only if there is a paradigm shift in thinking. One great example that Grundig provide is digital media monitoring. By simply setting up a Google alert to scan when your name is used, a company can monitor and identity potential problems and issues. This is a way that public relation professionals can use social media to their advantage. Rather than viewing social media as a platform to sell and promote, companies can use it as a forum to engage and monitor. By shifting their mindset, they can use new media to their advantage.

 

Question: Do you agree with my assessment that most companies use social media as a platform to sell rather than engage?

 

References

Barak, N. and Pavelski, J. (2013, December 31). New York Post. The worst social media blunders of 2013. Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2013/12/31/worst-social-media-blunders-of-2013/

 

Brooks, D. (2014, July 2). Robin Thicke took questions on Twitter and it went hilariously wrong. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/robin-thickes-twitter-ama-hilarious-2014-7

Carey, B. (2013, October 28). Intuit. The 5 Worst Twitter Mistakes Businesses Have Ever Made. Retrieved from http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/marketing/the-5-worst-twitter-mistakes-businesses-have-ever-made/

Grunig, J. E. (2009). Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation. PRism 6(2). Retrieved from http://www.prismjournal.org/fileadmin/Praxis/Files/globalPR/GRUNIG.pdf

Vujnovic, M. and Kruckeberg, D. (2011). Managing global public relations in the new media environment. In M. Deuze (Ed.), Managing Media Work (pp. 217-223). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Sage.

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