Public relations (PR) is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communications as “Any enterprise seeking to generate free media coverage” and “Creating, framing, and/or shaping news stories to favor the interests of these who are represented” (Chandler and Munday 2011, p. 345).
This definition reflects how digital platforms have changed PR strategies and how they interact with non-digital platforms. Social media is the digital platform that has enabled corporations to vastly expand the amount of “free” media coverage they receive. However these corporations still rely on non-digital and traditional media, including journalists to create, frame and shape news stories in their favor.
Social media is the digital phenomenon that has been welcomed into the PR strategies of the world’s most successful companies. Corporations who have embraced new digital platforms have done so by incorporating social media into a wider PR strategy.
An example where social media has been incorporated into a broader PR strategy is Coca-Cola’s personalised packaging campaign where they printed people’s names on cans and bottles. One aspect of this strategy included a Facebook app that enables people to create virtual Coke cans to share with friends. This campaign far exceeded expectations, traffic to the Coke Facebook page increased by 870% but more importantly the consumption of the target audience increased by 7% (Marketing Mag 2012).
Ogilvy was the agency responsible for the “Share a Coke” campaign. Find our more about their concept for this award wining campaign here.
Facebook was not the only digital platform that was used in this strategy. Consumers could also interact with Coke by SMSing a friends name that would become a personalised advertisement projected to the Coca-Cola billboard at King’s Cross.
While these aspects of the campaign where very successful, they were complementing an overarching PR strategy that was firstly aimed at increasing consumption of Coca-Cola and secondly to get people to talk about it (Marketing Mag 2012). It was clear how the digital aspect of the campaign connected with the overarching strategy when Coke added more names to the list making at least 65,000 more people who could buy a Coke with their name on it (Marketing Mag 2012).
The central idea of this strategy was not based around digital platforms, the idea to personalise packaging could have been successful to a certain degree with the accompaniment of a digital campaign. This original idea generated “free” media coverage due to its originality and appeal to consumers.
Manchester based digital agency Boomerang (2013) provided a blog that explains how crucial it is to have the right mix of digital and traditional PR. The mix you choose to represent your company is reflective of your target audience and the goals of your company. For some businesses a digital strategy may be useless, while only using traditional media for some companies may not reach their audience.
Non-digital platforms and traditional tactics still have their place in PR. PR companies that want to see success for their customers will continue to include traditional PR where appropriate. This will include pitching, creating, framing, and/or shaping news stories to favor the interests of those who are being represented. This is where the role of the journalist comes in to play.
With the rise of digital platforms in PR there is much discussion around the need for traditional media, especially journalists. Digital platforms, Twitter in particular have created a new era of the way that people access news and current affairs. Twitter has enabled the content of a half page news story to be summed up in 140 characters and these characters don’t have to be written by a renowned journalist. For PR this means that the content produced for not only traditional but digital media needs to be of an extraordinarily high standard for someone to choose to read it. Journalists that want to survive the ice age of the digital era will be the ones who can really write to achieve the goal of a PR agencies customer on both digital and non-digital platforms. The reputation and popularity of these journalists will be a key factor for PR agencies who may begin to pitch to the journalist opposed to the news corporation.
According to popular blogger Greg Jerricho, journalists who do not interact with the ever-advancing digital platforms such as Twitter will have an “automatic handicap” (G, Jericho, 2012, p. 223).
My conclusion is that companies should consider what combination of traditional and digital PR will achieve their goals. I agree with Norton (2013, p.5) when he says that “a social media campaign is only one part of a wider strategy” for a business to achieve its potential.
Boomerang 2013, Boomerang Communications Ltd, Manchester, viewed 9 November 2013, <http://www.weareboomerang.com/>
Chandler, D & Munday R 2011, Oxford Dictionary of Media and Communication, University of Oxford, Oxford, NY.
Jericho, G 2012, The Rise Of The Fifth Estate social media and blogging in Australian politics¸ viewed 9 November 2013, <http://reader.eblib.com.au.ezproxy1.canberra.edu.au/(S(ebwx4wpdfew10sp5uh1it4bd))/Reader.aspx?p=981484&o=103&u=ZajcHj7rWHjB03EEe7TSCw%3d%3d&t=1384392896&h=013B0377A069FEFD43152C1235C2CC6A6048779E&s=10734767&ut=281&pg=222&r=img&c=-1&pat=n>
Marketing Mag 2012, ‘Share a Coke’ campaign post analysis, Niche Media, viewed 11 November 2013 <http://www.marketingmag.com.au/case-studies/share-a-coke-campaign-post-analysis-15944/#.Un8NNxaGGfQ>
Norton, T 2013, Strategies for Advocacy and Targeted Communications, version 1, Tim Norton, viewed 31 October 2013, http://tim.anewleaf.com.au/files/2013/03/Social-Media-for-Advocacy-v1.pdf