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Public Relations and Social Media. Instructor: Richard Bailey. About this talk. What’s changing ‘out there’? What’s changing inside the corporation? Where are the points of conflict and contention ? Who are the key sources?.

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public relations and social media

Public Relations and Social Media

Instructor: Richard Bailey

about this talk
About this talk
  • What’s changing ‘out there’?
  • What’s changing inside the corporation?
  • Where are the points of conflict and contention?
  • Who are the key sources?

‘Online public relations is not linear. Stuff happens!’ Phillips and Young 2009

grunig revisited
Grunig revisited
  • Members of publics have always controlled the messages to which they are exposed.
  • Publics create themselves around problems their members face in life situations—stakeholders define their stakes in organizations.
  • Two-way symmetrical communication is more effective than asymmetrical communication in building organization-public relationships.
  • Reputations, images, and similar concepts are what members of different publics think and say to each other, not something controlled by an organization.
  • These cognitive representations are a by-product of organizational decisions and behaviors, active communication with publics, and the quality of organization-relationships.
grunig functions of pr
Grunig: Functions of PR
  • A messaging, publicity, informational, media-relations function?
    • Publications, news, communication campaigns, media contacts.
  • A marketing function?
    • Support for marketing through media publicity?
  • A strategic management function?
    • Active participant in decision making?
    • Research-based, organizational listening and learning?
    • Building relationships for other functions, including marketing?
theoretical paradigms
Theoretical Paradigms
  • The symbolic, interpretive, paradigm vs. the behavioral, strategic management, paradigm.
  • Both paradigms existed in the history of public relations, are practiced today, and are competing for the future of the profession.
  • Public relations cannot take full advantage of the digital revolution if it is practiced under the interpretive rather than the strategic management paradigm.
the symbolic interpretive paradigm
The Symbolic, Interpretive, Paradigm
  • Public relations manages how publics interpret the organization—to buffer the organization from its environment.
  • These interpretations include popular concepts such as image, identity, impressions, reputation, and brand.
  • Emphasis is on publicity, media relations, and media effects.
  • Views the effects of public relations as changes in cognitive representations, as the negotiation of meaning.
behavioral strategic management paradigm
Behavioral Strategic Management Paradigm
  • Public relations participates in strategic decision-making to help manage the behavior of the organization.
  • Public relations is a bridging activity to build relationships with stakeholders rather than a set of messaging activities designed to buffer the organization from stakeholders.
  • Emphasis is on two-way and symmetrical communication of many kinds to provide publics a voice in management decisions and to facilitate dialogue between management and publics.
  • Views effects as changes in behavior, as the negotiation of behavior.
media evolution
Media evolution

‘The late 19th and 20th centuries were dominated by mass media and mass communication that predominantly involved top-down, one-way distribution of information to ‘audiences’ which, in the main, had to passively accept what was given to them. Also, in the mass media model, organisations controlled the messages distributed.

‘This has completely changed with development of Web 2.0-based social media.’ Macnamara 2010

21 st century mediascape macnamara 2010
21st century mediascape Macnamara 2010
  • connectivity (rapidly approaching ubiquity),
  • communities,
  • co-creativity,
  • collaboration,
  • collective intelligence,
  • communication (two-way not one-way),
  • conducted as...
  • conversation – that is, open discussion that is authentic, not speeches, lectures, political propaganda, ‘spin’, or corporate-speak
understanding pr
Understanding PR
  • Understanding the nature and significance of values in relationships and interactions is now at the heart of organisational optimisation.
  • In principle, relationships optimisation is the key to all organisational evolution and success.
  • Relationships enable a return on value including the ROI of reputation as well as other desired outcomes.
  • Management of the effects on values in ubiquitous online interaction includes offline interactions in 21stcentury

(David Phillips, lecture slide)

internet communications
Internet communications

‘The distinction between broadcast and communications used to be clear.’

Shirky 2008

One-to-many (broadcast)

TV, video, news, celebrity Tweet


Twitter, forums, comments on popular blogs, Facebook groups


RSS, aggregators

One-to-several (network)

Blog, Facebook, Twitter, group email

One-to-one (conversation)

IM, email, DM, Skype

consumer mindset
Consumer mindset
  • There’s no market for messages
  • This means the end of ‘interruption marketing’
  • A need for ‘permission marketing’ (Godin 1999)
  • ‘Markets are conversations’ (Cluetrain Manifesto 2000)
  • Rise of activists and single-issue campaigns
  • The end of ‘command and control’?
    • ‘The certainties of consumer expectations, behaviour, segmentation and communications that have underpinned marketing seem to have evaporated. Marketers are struggling to come to terms with splintering social structures, changing tastes and a fragmenting mediascape’. Professor Stephen Brown, Cranfield University
corporate landscape
Corporate landscape
  • Downsize or die?
  • Consider the rise of open source projects (Linux, Wikipedia)
  • What’s happening to command-and-control?
    • ‘We see two schools of PR in practice today. One is the incumbent school of “command and control”. This school argues that companies should keep communicating in the same manner and with the same rules that they have always practiced... Some of the smartest are creating a new “listen and participate” school of thought in PR.’ Scoble and Israel 2006
command and control
Command and control

Based on Phillips and Young 2009

Dom-inant coalition

Networked communication

Dom-inant coalition

Traditional ‘command and control’ management

Changing organizational structure


Input-output model






Cornelissen 2008 p39

stakeholder model
Stakeholder model

Political groups







Trade associations



Cornelissen 2008 p39

Cornelissen 2008 p39

  • ‘At the turn of the century, no PR department would send a copy of a press release to a competitor at the same time they sent it to the press. Today a very large proportion of organizations do.’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
  • ‘Transparency ... implies openness, communication and accountability.’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
    • Radical transparency: the management method whereby nearly all decision making is carried out publicly
    • Controlled transparency: the controlled posting and release of information to the internet
    • Institutional transparency: information about an organisation is made available by a wide range of authorities
  • Information has always leaked out of organisations, but it’s so much easier today
    • Email, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, text messages
  • ‘A motivated, informed and alert workforce is the best and probably the only defence against unintentional porosity’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
  • Porosity is not always bad; it can add to the authentic voice of the organisation
internet agency
Internet agency
  • ‘Agency is the process of transformation of a message as it is passed from one person to another online’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
  • Agency can and does change PR messages
  • Control of the message is lost as it enters the network
network complexity
Network complexity

A small network of five members has ten connections.

A ten member network has 45connections; a 15 member network has 105.

‘A group’s complexity grows faster than its size’.

Shirky 2008







Planning Research & Evaluation

Source: Watson and Noble

1. Audit

Where are we now?

Where do we need to be?

2. Setting objectives

5. Results and evaluation

How did we do?

How do we get there?

Are we getting there?

3. Strategy and plan

4. Ongoing measurement

1 audit
1: Audit
  • The internet is the first place we turn for news, competitor and market insight, commentary and real-time views
  • What is being said about you on blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and social networks?
  • What about your web server stats?
  • What about Search Engine Optimization?
  • How do you compare with your competitors?
2 setting objectives
2: Setting objectives
  • Situational theory of publics becomes a valuable segmentation model since publics are defined by issues rather than consumer behaviour
  • Are we trying to raise awareness, achieve engagement, change behaviour or all three?
  • What issues could cause us problems? Is risk and opportunity manageable?
  • ‘Online objectives have to coincide with organizational objectives and values, and to do so in ways that will make both transparent to the world. In addition, these objectives need to chime with an online community that has plenty of other places to go.’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
3 strategy and plan
3: Strategy and plan
  • ‘Aims and objectives for online activity have to be part of a strategic, multi-participant, multi-media approach’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
  • ‘The mass market/mass media mindset is hard to leave behind’ (Phillips and Young 2009)
  • The programme should be a mix of activities for old and new media (online media, media online)
  • Strategy is adaptable by nature
4 ongoing measurement
4: Ongoing measurement
  • Strategy will include methodologies for monitoring and reporting
  • ‘Online activity can be slow to take off. It can also be explosive!’
  • Have SEO goals been built in?
  • What about link sharing and affiliate marketing?
risk and opportunities
Risk and opportunities

Phillips and Young 2009

Business complexity

Increased likelihood of risk

Technical complexity

risk and opportunities1
Risk and opportunities

Phillips and Young 2009

Business criticality

Increased impact of risk

Campaign size

known unknowns
Known unknowns
  • What could go wrong that can be anticipated?
  • Risk analysis should be an ongoing process

Unknown unknowns

  • Some things cannot be anticipated.There is no plan B.
  • But is there a monitoring and alert system in place?
  • Trust is a core element in managing the unforeseen.
5 results and evaluation
5: Results and evaluation
  • ‘There are very good indicators that can measure the public relations footprint of an organization.’
    • Trends monitoring:
      • Website/blog visitor numbers
      • Referrals (where the traffic is coming from)
      • Inbound links
      • Subscriptions (RSS)
    • Keyword monitoring
    • News monitoring and reporting
      • eg Cymfony, Radian6
recommended reading
Recommended reading
  • Godin, S (1999) Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers, Simon & Schuster 
  • Grunig, J (2009) Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalization, Prism 6 (2)
  • Li, C and Bernoff, J (2008) Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, Harvard Business Press
  • Levine, R,  Locke, C, Searls, D and Weinberger, D (2009) The Cluetrain Manifesto: tenth anniversary edition Basic Books
  • Macnamara, J (2010) The 21st Media (R)evolution: Emergent Communication Practices, Peter Lang
  • Phillips, D and Young, P (2009) Online Public Relations: a practical guide to developing an online strategy in the world of social media, Kogan Page
  • Scoble, R and Israel, S (2006) Naked Conversations: how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers, Wiley 
  • Scott, D (2nded 2010) The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasts, Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, Wiley 
  • Solis, B and Breakenridge, D (2009) Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR, FT Prentice Hall
  • Shirky, C (2008) Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations
  • Thomas, M and Brain, D (2008) Crowd Surfing: Suriving and thriving in the age of consumer empowerment, A & C Black