Did social media kill the press release?

This seems to be the big mystery.

There’s a lot of debating going on about whether or not the traditional press release is effective anymore. Why? Well, one side argues that social media has officially killed it… in the study, with a candle stick.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have altered the way people communicate in the 21st century. People now expect to be communicated with in a timely and personal fashion. From e-mails to blogs to the now-trendy “tweet,” fast, 2-way communication has become the norm.

So how does this affect PR ?

Here’s how I see it: Publics want to listen and be heard by the clients/brands they support. Social media has proven to be a great tool for generating these types of relationships. Consumers and stakeholders have many opportunities to interact with the press–And be heard! Because individuals can offer quick and direct feedback, PR pros are able to learn more about their specific audiences and respond appropriately. It’s a win-win situation. (To read more about how social media is changing PR, click here.)

To say that social media has killed the press release seems overly dramatic. It has simply offered more options for communicating with audiences. I think the press release is still an effective communication tool. There’s just more tools to choose from. It’s the PR pro’s responsibility to analyze each situation and determine which medium is the most appropriate to use. (Click here to read about some great uses for press releases today.)

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Apple just wants you to be happy.

This catchy tune, known as “The iPhone Antenna Song,” was the official opener at Apple’s press conference in July 2010.

Just a few hours after the iPhone 4 was released last year, consumers began to notice a terrible flaw in the design of the heavily sought after product. Basically, when held a certain way, the antenna would short circuit and the phone would lose reception. Talk about a tragedy. As news spread, many wondered how Apple would respond. Steve Jobs’ immediate response wasn’t quite what the people had in mind. First, he tried to pass it off as a petty issue. Then, he went on to tell people they were just holding the phone the wrong way and that there wasn’t really a reception issue.

Long story short, Apple’s next move depended on some brilliant PR to bounce back from this corporate crisis. To see a full video of the press conference that followed, click here.

Apple has never been noted for having the most brilliant PR team. They’re more concerned with customer service and generating empathy. (Anyone who has ever gone into an Apple store knows this.) By acknowledging that, like everything else in the world, Apple (believe it or not) isn’t perfect, and then dropping some key data and test results, Jobs made a much better impression on Apple consumers than his original, more passive response. He assured consumers that Apple had taken the issue “really personally” and was “deeply sorry.” As a result, they promised that every person troubled by the iPhone 4 reception crisis would receive a free case or complete refund.

It probably wouldn’t be wise for anyone in a PR crisis to copy this approach, but for Apple it seemed to work. Before the press conference was over, Apple stock rose from $248.41 a share to more than $254 a share. And as it stands, Apple still can’t make iPhones fast enough to meet demand.

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Some Much Needed Intros.

I guess if I’m going to be rambling about things that I think are relevant and expect anyone to actually hear me out, it’s probably appropriate to go ahead and formally introduce myself:

My name is Sydney Comeaux, and I’m a senior at St. Edward’s University. I’m majoring in Communication, with a course emphasis in Rhetorical and Cultural Studies, and minoring in English Writing and Rhetoric. This semester, I’m taking a lot of courses that I’m really excited about (yes, really). One of these classes is, of course, Intro. to Public Relations.

I haven’t taken any courses so far that focus on PR, Advertising, or Marketing, and if you had asked me a few weeks ago, I’d probably say that they were all the same thing. However, I now know that this isn’t the case at all. I think PR is an interesting field because it promotes creative thinkers with exceptional communication skills and knowledge. It’s not just about getting your company/product/client’s name in a headline. Despite the myth that claims otherwise, all PR isn’t actually good PR (click here for more details).

I’m looking forward to learning how some of the most impressive PR pros go about doing their jobs, especially with things like Twitter and Facebook reshaping the field in many ways (click here to see three interesting PR-related infographics about social media).

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Public relations? What is that?

Truth is, a lot of people don’t really understand exactly what public relations (PR) is; in fact, I’m still working on figuring it out myself. One thing I do know, though, is that there are a lot of misconceptions out there. As a result, professionals have tried over and over again to debunk the different myths about PR. For a list of some of these myths, see Richard Edelman’s article, “PR Profiling.” The real question is, after 32 years in the business, why does Edelman feel obligated to defend himself and PR as a whole?

Oftentimes, people think of PR as an unethical field devoted to controlling the minds of the impressionable, general public by using disingenuous, deceptive, and/or highly manipulative tactics. In his article, “PR prof: It’s ironic to read journalists complain about PR,” Tim Penning emphasizes the importance in recognizing that misinforming the public is not at all the standard and accepted practice. Instead, PR positively contributes to the fundamental goals of democracy by informing people before they make important decisions.

So, now that I’ve helped you form  a general idea for everything PR is not, what the heck is it? Well, here’s what I’ve learned so far. PR is:

  • a process
  • deliberate
  • planned
  • performance based
  • concerned with public interest
  • 2-way communication
  • part of strategic management
Furthermore, successful and effective PR involves research, action, communication, and evaluation (R.A.C.E). It is concerned with publics (groups of individuals) and aims to identify, establish, and maintain beneficial relationships between these publics. By these standards, PR isn’t all that bad, right? If you’re still a little confused, here’s a video I found that might help: http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Video/477.aspx.
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