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The Impact of Social Media on the PR Industry – an Interview with Rob Brown

[fa icon="calendar"] 01-Mar-2013 06:45:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

Now that you've seen the interviews for my dissertation I conducted with Heather Yaxley, Shelley Fletcher-Bryant and Annie Bowden, here's the next one.

Below you’ll see the responses of Rob BrownRob Brown. He has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks: Euro RSCG, McCann Erickson and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ and is joint editor of the forthcoming 'Share This Too'. You can check out his blog here and follow him on Twitter @robbrown.

Q: How do you think the emergence of social media changed PR? Is it a positive or a negative impact and why?

It has changed PR considerably. A core element of PR has traditional been media relations. The media has evolved and so must PR. From a structural point of view there is more dialogue and more peer to peer communication and PR must engage with and learn to influence these conversations. From a practical point of view media is generally richer and more distributed. In the past our content was mainly test (press releases) and images. No we need to consider including more video and linked content. PR people are even learning to share HTML code.

Q: What are the main differences between traditional PR and PR 2.0?

I’ve answered partly above but that main difference is that PR historically was one-way top down communication. Now it has to be more two-way and encompass feedback and dialogue. PR is less about control and more about discussion. This means that strategically PR people are advising clients on best practice rather than how to spin communications to give an impression of best practice. I think we need to drop the term PR 2.0. This is mainstream PR as it is now.

Q: What opportunities does social media provide? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

One major advantage is that PR people can publish directly via social networks of by creating blog platforms. Many enlightened PR people have built big social media communities that enable them to do this more effectively. A disadvantage if you can call it that is that there is more risk to organizations as all of their activities are potentially in public.

Q: How do you think the emergence of social media affected the Marketing Mix?

It has blurred the boundaries between the disciplines – distinctions between advertising, PR and media planning/buying are far less clear than they used to be. Social Media also allows communications tasks to be achieved in new ways.

Q: What are the main challenges of measuring PR and social media activities? What do you think is the most effective way of measuring them?

The challenge is in part how to make sense of the opportunities. The web is infinitely measurable, but that also means there are unlimited ways of getting the analytics wrong by measuring the wrong things. There is also a tendency to over-complicate web analytics. Basic measure like site visits, twitter followers, retweet numbers, Facebook likes van also be useful but they are measure of quantity rather than quality and therefore have limitations. Measuring outcomes is far more powerful. Can the analytics tell us how in terms of behaviour, action or views and opinions the campaign met the set objectives?

Q: Can you please briefly describe a normal working day? What are your usual day-to-day activities; how much of them are combined with social media, e.g. how much time of your workday do you spend in blogs and social media networks etc?

No such thing as an average day. Twitter is always on and glanced at regularly for general news and stuff that is relevant to clients. I’ll posts tweets usually 1-5 times a day mainly to keep engaged with the community by sharing opinions and links. I also use my social media communities (client/agency/personal) to promote links to blog posts and online content. I’m an admin on two client Facebook pages so I will look at those most days though the content is managed by colleagues. Most weeks I’ll draft a blog post. Most days I’ll read several although if the site is trusted I don’t really distinguish between blogs/mainstream media.

Q: Does this change affect your personal life? Do you spend relatively more time working”, e.g. monitoring social media and networking, in your free time now in comparison to let’s say 6 years ago?

Yes, absolutely. It can be really difficult to switch off.

Q: What are your predictions for the future of the practice and what do you think would be the biggest challenges for the industry?

The PR industry needs to adapt otherwise other disciplines, SEO, advertising and digital agencies will erode the work that we do.




Want to know more about social media’s impact on PR?

Get the book here. The research was published as a book called "Social Media and the Rebirth of PR". Read it now!

Topics: University Experience, Social Media, Public Relations

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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