As I was watching Downton Abbey in the comfort of my apartment the other day, I realized how far we have progressed in terms of methods of communication and the speed at which information is propagated and consumed. Having seen messages being sent over horse carriages, via telegraph and radio, broadcasted over television and the internet, exchanged over cellular phones and mobile technology, it seems natural that social media is the next step in the evolution of the technology of communication.
Stories have always been an evident part of our lives. We grew up listening to stories, we have stories to talk about and as we have advanced into the technological world, we have stories to share. Little did we know that they would get bigger and better with the proliferation of social media. Massive innovation is taking place and doors have opened for us to explore new vistas through “connections” that take us deep down into the world of social media. Social Networking is here to stay.
It is with these thoughts in my mind that I came across a talk by Richard Edelman, the CEO and President of Edelman Worldwide, the world’s largest Public Relations firm. The talk was titled “When All Media is Social: Navigating the Future of Communications” and throws light upon the prospects of social media for PR professionals. Drawing upon vast industry experience Richard Edelman observes, “The growth and evolution of the media landscape has significantly changed the public relations industry. With that comes a need for well-educated, top talent that will fuel the growth of the industry. This has challenged academic programs to rapidly embrace and understand the factors that are driving the development of traditional and social media, and to include it in their communications programs.”
Public relations is about building relations with an individual, an organization or community. Edelman quotes Nike as an example for a company which has elevated its Public Relations campaign to include a social and community aspect called Nike+. He mentioned that Nike is one of the companies that realised that building a community of people who use their products and get them to share and collaborate is the right way to handle Public Relations in the social age.
In his talk, he mentions the various forms of social media in the market today and divides them into four varied categories: traditional mainstream players, digitally native”hybrids” that blend community and journalism, social networks and corporate/brand-owned media. He notices that in an age where people believe less in institutions and more in peers, there is a need to move what from rules based leaderships to principles based leadership. Transparency is the key to a successful business.
Richard Edelman explains the future of technology in correlation to public relations:
1) New Social Giants Are Emerging – Despite the existence of major social media players like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, there is always room for emerging players. While it appears that Facebook dominates the “personal” social space, Linkedin dominates the professional social space and twitter, the casual, there is always room for niche players. Edelman mentions examples like Pintrest, Tumblr and Instagram that have made space for themselves.
2) Paid Media Now Amplifies Social: Paid advertising’s horizon has increased with the introduction of sponsored ads. There is a chance of better visibility for the brand depending on their social media presence. Companies are shifting their advertising strategy to engage the public in their social components instead of just products.
3) Search is Morphing with Social: Social media and digital media have become platforms for better branding and better buying. Today, there are software and applications that are online with sites like Google ads, Facebook and Twitter that sponsor goods of your choice. Life has become easier with the introduction of online shopping aided by peer reviews and recommendations.
4) Amplification Now Trumps Circulation: New media technologies relying on social media and online readership now reach more people and cater better to their tastes than the more traditional media forms like “The Washington Post” and “The Guardian” which rely on subscriptions.
5) Visual Storytelling is in Renaissance: Every video has a story to tell. The re-emergence of visual communication in correlation with the development of technology has grown in leaps and bounds. TVs, tabloids, tablets and smartphones have made an irresistible place for themselves in the market. Edelman observes, “print media is making a big push into video. “The Wall Street Journal” runs a streaming network for tablets that airs live during the business day. Visual storytelling is no longer the domain of broadcasters”.
The world is a global village with social media playing an important part in its functioning. There are no borders when it comes to social media. Internet has brought us closer together. Facebook and twitter have brought friends and family together. The race of every growing technology brings about rise of every increasing social media sites. While blogs, Pinterest, Stumbleupon are sites that bring in all the interest groups together, Instagram, Picassa and Flickr bring out the photographers in us. Richard Edelman mentions that “At the center sit two prominent forces that circulate stories: search and visual content. Change in the media continues to accelerate at breakneck speed.”
In the Academic summit in 2012 at Stanford University, Richard Edelmen shared a few more views on PR as a growing profession and what the future employees of PR can look forward to.
1. Show and tell: As a discipline PR not only needs to be well written but the products should appeal to the public’s eyes a good in the form of visual, photographs, info graphs etc. These are more sharable. Visual and video presentations make an impact.
2. Be rational and emotional: It is important for every PR to design stories that are not only emotional but are also rational. It needs to be a sharable story. Knowing your audience can help better with storytelling which is both emotional and rational.
3. Dig the data: One not only needs to be strong with analytics but also be strong in quants. Numbers are everywhere and one needs to gauge the experience of handling accounts and issues.
In the world of communication, social media plays a vital role. PR strategies can be different depending on the culture, channels, language, trends and regionalism. The type of business prevalent in the market defines their attitude and trade. Edelman points out four communication factors which must be included in all PR strategies:
1) Social Engagement: Participation in the community relations and civic engagement is a must for all the PR professionals to get a feel for it.
2) Understanding data: Data analysis and implementation is a crucial part of public relations.
3) Emotional intelligence: The ability to control and asses ones emotions is an art in itself. One needs to consider these factors carefully.
4) Visual Story telling: Pictures and motion pictures convey a lot. As technology is enhancing, visual communication has upper hand.
The above tactics justify the title, “When all media is social”. We have progressed to a stage where iPads are replacing chalk boards, mobile phones and GPS devices are replacing traditional maps, communication has become either minimal or of no cost. I would agree with all the points shared by Richard Edelman in his speech. Some of the key factors that one must look out for are that social responsibility, the usage of Google as a search engine, the rise of more and more social media websites, bridging the gap between worlds. People make travel choices via social media sources. People have become digital natives and a lot of this constant collaboration can be achieved by stories that please audiences with smart and social media aware Public Relations strategies.
I will leave you all with an interesting video I came across YouTube, that describes the rise of social media.