Social media’s role in modern public relations

Social media’s role in modern public relations

By Mandi Boyd | Posted: August 15, 2013
In the days of Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee, public relations was executed via press releases, advertising, and press conferences. Over the years, it has adapted to modern media and incorporated many new channels, including social media. Throughout its trajectory, one thing has remained the same: Public relations is a necessity for the health of all brands.A notable example of public relations at its finest was Johnson & Johnson’s reaction to the 1982 Tylenol crisis. Unknown suspects placed lethal doses of cyanide into Tylenol capsules after they reached the shelves. Once this became public—due to the deaths of several people—Johnson & Johnson had to react.

The brand assumed responsibility, issued a total item recall, halted all advertisement, and even refused to continue capsule production. Johnson & Johnson sent a message loud and clear: It stood by its credo and placed the safety of consumers above all else.

To share its statement, Johnson & Johnson relied mainly on traditional publications and media coverage. Jumping forward 31 years, social media now affords brands the opportunity to present a statement immediately and simultaneously across several platforms, address a mass audience with the most up-to-date information, and interact with consumers directly.

This brings traditional public relations to a new level. For example, the Tylenol brand could now warn consumers immediately to cease using their capsules, could answer questions and concerns on a personal level, and could keep its audiences informed on the situation as it developed.

By maintaining this new form of public relations, audiences are going to be more inclined to not only give the brand a chance, but remain loyal. A whopping 71 percent who have a positive customer service experience via social media would recommend that brand to their friends.

Here are a few examples of all-star public relations at work via social media:

1. Immediate public address.

On July 22, 2013, Southwest Airlines Flight 345 skidded down the runway nose first as it landed at LaGuardia Airport. The airline addressed the issue publicly on Twitter:

and on Facebook:

2. Mass dissemination of information to the consumer. 

Shaquille O’Neil’s retirement announcement via Twitter.

3. Direct customer interaction. 

Boingo Wireless, a global Wi-Fi provider, addressed a customer in distress to help rectify the situation almost immediately.

Another all-star example of the importance of direct customer interaction:

O2, a telecommunications company, suffered a mass outage, enraging thousands of customers. O2 did its best to respond to even the harshest tweets.

Public relations has evolved over the years but one thing is for certain, it has grown into a necessity for a brands’ survival and well-being.

A version of this story first appeared on Likeable’s blog.

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