Coming into my freshman year at Boston University, I had very little clue as to what PR was about. I knew the basics; working PR means you control the information that passes between the brand and its publics. But what does everyone mean when they say traditional PR versus New Media PR?!
Traditionally, PR managers relied on the reporters and the news to send out information to the public. Newspapers, magazines, television coverage and press releases are all classes tools of the PR trade. What better way to send out your message than an article in the New York Times? Or around here, The Boston Globe.
PR managers would call up reporters with the news, a juicy new story or a breaking headline, and entrust the reporters to write an engaging article that really gets the public thinking about the brand. Television news stories are also another great way to go. Exposure to the world while everyone’s at home with the news turned on is a sure fire way to get some great coverage. While classic forms of communication like newspapers and television news are reliable and likely to be trusted by the public, there’s always a risk involving a middle-man. Reporters are often criticized for publishing false news or putting a negative spin on things to generate readership. While some say that any PR is good PR as long as people are talking, sometimes it’s important to keep the intended tone of the message.
New Media PR
With the emergence of new media like twitter, vine, Facebook, and Instagram into our lives, PR is becoming more instantaneous and controlled from the source. Facebook and Twitter especially are prominent ways that information is being conveyed to the public. Let’s be honest, once the President of the United States and the Pope both have twitter handles, you know it’s legit. With new media, it’s not only easier to reach a widespread audience, but the information is often received in a more informal and intimate way. When the President tweets, whether or not it comes from him or his “team”, the audience that the tweet reaches feels a more personal connection him. New media like this erases that middle-man reporter from the equation. PR managers can control directly the content that goes out, and the spin it’s given. The downside? New media is, well, it’s new. Although it’s becoming more widespread and accepted as a standard in society, there’s still that integrity that comes with traditional media that just isn’t there with the newer, more informal forms of media.
So which is better?
It’s really quite hard for me to tell at the moment. Like most things, I’d say any great PR manager would need a healthy mix of both styles of PR. Give the big stories and breaking headlines to the traditional media. Who doesn’t want a headline in a magazine or newspaper, or a feature on the 5 o’clock news? And while that’s going, tweet out updates to keep the public engaged and interested.
While this seems to be where PR is at right now, I know that most likely in a few years time everything will be different. In our rapidly changing society, there’s always something new around the corner. As PR managers, we have to be where the public eye is. If that’s Twitter, we’re there, if that’s the evening news, we’ve gotta be there too. And whatever tactic is coming up next? Well, you better believe we’ll be there.