As social media became more mainstream over the past five years, many public relations (PR) professionals now feel it’s easier to connect with journalists.
For some, job descriptions pivoted towards being a marketer as well as a communicator to the press and consumers.
“I think we still have our PR role, but social is also a forefront of our communications. But we still need to work with media partners to help extend brand messaging,” said Michael Ni, a digital strategist for Hawaii’s Visitors and Convention Bureau (CVB).
Ni started his PR career in 2005, before social media was on most people’s radars, and gradually transitioned into the digital and social realm. His position at Hawaii’s CVB now involves working on paid advertising, a project that didn’t exist five years ago. He’s observed PR ads have a larger presence online today than a few years ago.
“Everything is so gray-line now when you talk about advertising and PR, there should be a new name for that,” Ni said. “We’re always asking ‘what’s our role in that, how does that align with our messaging.’ Now it becomes more of an integrated job to make sure what we’re doing hits every point with our audience.”
Destinations now approach Instagramers and other social influencers to get publicity through those accounts, and research shows the general public sees these “regular” people as being “like them,” and as a result are more trusted as information sources today than in the past, says Brittani Wood, an account supervisor at DCI.
An Edelman study shows regular people are viewed as more trusted sources than government officials or CEOs this year, with the amount of consumers finding regular people more trustworthy increasing nearly 20 percentage points since 2009.
Wood considers this point when completing daily responsibilities. While she says many PR professionals aren’t social media influencers, including herself, she feels they’ve become more trusted information sources because of social media as they can build their own following like their clients. This change doesn’t consume her day-to-day tasks, but it’s something she pays attention to.
“Publicists need to be aware of who these people are, and the conversation about who influencers are and how to engage with them is something everyone in industry is grappling with right now,” she said.
Here are some other responses Skift received when we asked PR professionals across the country about something that’s changed in their position since the rise of social media:
>> Kimberly Sullivan, public relations manager for Dallas CVB: “Media familiarization trips are now more about the journalists sharing their experiences instantly to their audiences, and I worked to set up a special hashtag for the new Qantas flight just for media to share about their experiences.”
>> David Blandford, vice president of communications for Visit Seattle: “At Visit Seattle our communications and marketing teams jointly lead management of our social media channels and our blog. There’s also more networking and pitching with journalists via social media, across all platforms.”
>> Kara Carmichael, public relations director for Choose Chicago: “Social media has also impacted the way we communicate with international journalists. I’m connected to journalists now on WhatsApp and WeChat in China. The relationship becomes much more personal when you’re connected through these apps because it’s the same technology you’re using to connect with family and friends. If I know a photojournalist would appreciate the sunset photo of Chicago that I just took, I can share it and spark a dialogue about Chicago’s architecture. It’s authentic and in real time.”