After almost a year at EPIC Creative®, I’ve learned that PR and social media are quite different. As a student, my teachers have been telling my fellow classmates and I that public relations and social media go hand-in-hand, and have added social media into the PR curriculum. While it’s great that they’re educating students about the values of social media, they couldn’t be farther from the truth when they say that they’re one in the same. They can certainly work together, but each has to be treated as its own field with unique strengths and weaknesses.
How PR and Social Media are Different
Something my teachers don’t seem to realize is how different the target audience for social media and public relations really are. Here are a few things that I have found that make them very separate entities:
- Those who follow our client’s social media pages can be anyone, whereas there are two tiers, if you will, of people we are trying to target in public relations – first, the editors and journalists working for publications or television stations, and second, those who subscribe to the publications and watch the television stations.
- In social media, we can see how many people have clicked on, seen, liked, shared or commented on a post. In my experience, that number is usually anywhere from a quarter to a half of the amount of followers a page has. On the other hand, if we publish an article or an advertisement in a magazine, we can get a decent estimate of how many people will see the article based on the publication’s number of subscribers.
- PR relies on careful planning and implementation for getting information out. It’s a process that needs to be started at the beginning of the year to make sure all the information is getting to where it needs to go in a timely manner. Writing a sentence or two for a social media post also needs to be done according to a schedule, but it can be anywhere between a day or a week ahead of when that post will go up.
- In PR, establishing a good relationship with editors and journalists is vital for getting our clients featured in their publications or shows. We don’t need to create as much of a personal relationship with social media followers – we just need to keep them updated so they don’t get bored and move on.
How They Can Work Well Together
Even though the methods used for connecting with an audience in PR and social media are very different, this doesn’t mean that they can’t still work very well together in some instances.
- If one of our clients is published in a magazine, or receives airtime on a show, social media is able to quickly spread the word and encourage people to read the article or watch the coverage by sharing it on our client’s page.
- Trade shows are excellent opportunities for public relations specialists to build better relationships with editors and journalists. By using social media, PR experts can keep the audience updated on what is going on at that particular trade show and provide them with some insider information that won’t be fully available until a write up is published.
- Social media is a great way to help PR promote things like contests, giveaways and new products. Usually, a news release will be sent to journalists and editors to inform their audiences about these things, but social media helps to keep the engagement at a high level.
Working for EPIC has taught me so much more than I could have learned about the inner-workings of social media and public relations in a classroom. Because social media is here to stay and continues to grow at a rapid rate, I feel it should have its own curriculum in colleges and start being supported as a valuable business communication tool, and not just a way to talk to friends. Remember, even though PR and social media can work together, they are still very different and have to be handled separately.