Over the last six months I’ve had several conversations with the Red Rocket team as to the effectiveness of social media in business applications. Through our three month testing period of social media campaigns, I started wondering about social media’s place in public relations practices.

Public relations has some inherent functions such as promotion and advertising. These two components can be done via press releases, public service announcements, flyers, newsletters, and so forth.

Public relations also has other applications such as face-management practices for a company. Having a crisis management-savvy individual on a company’s team can come in handy when damage control is necessary. A great example for the need for public relations is BP’s recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP will catch a ton of heat for this regardless, and I think it is safe to say their PR team will have jobs for quite some time.

Social media has similar functions that public relations does. It can be used for promotion and advertising, and many businesses are benefiting from this easy-to-manage channel of getting their name, brand, and product out to their customers. Because of social media’s ease to create networks, identifying and pursuing a target market can be easily attainable with the correct research. With social media, finding those target customers can actually be easier because people will generally join groups that interest them. Finding those groups can sometimes be just a couple of clicks away.

Social media can also be used for face management tactics. There will always be a place for social media damage control with the internet becoming more a part of our day to day activities. Maintaining your online identity is crucial. Consider this: The internet controls a large number of everyday activities. Wouldn’t you rather be in control of the way you appear on the internet? Social media can be used to maintain a great reputation. Just like public relations, however, social media can destroy reputations if used unethically. It is important to use social media appropriately. The results can be astronomical.

The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that public relations and social media should be used simultaneously. Both serve similar purposes in shedding light on topics/products/people, and both can be used to maintain reputations. My advice to any company would be to implement social media in their public relations efforts for maximized results.

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