As a traditionalist, I’m accustomed to creating a public relations plan delivering the goods measuring the impressions getting the expected numbers resulting from this, primarily one-way communication, and doing it all over again.
Social Media is a much faster, two-way street where the reach of the message is made exponential by key influencers and where the company that created the original communication can participate in the discussion. It is the job of the original messenger (the company) to be willing to listen and to act in a way that achieves its goals with its audience whether the discussion is positive or negative. Despite the risks of negative discussion, social media is a gift of engagement. Messengers can reshape the message like never before.
Traditional Public Relations – One-Way Communication – Disengagement
This is a fairly one way street – as traditional strategies are primarily one-way communication. It’s true that traditional public relations includes surveying audiences to understand the impact of the impressions, however, it is less likely and less common to have robust discussions with the audiences. Although it happens, it is not as common – we Communicators like to leave that to the Marketers.
Of course as Communicators, we scan print and broadcast news. We know how many articles are written and we know the circulation or reach of those channels. But we don’t know how many of the people using those channels, actually listened or read our news. If we create an event, we know how many people within our intended audience were there. If we write for our website, we know how many visitors we received. We create impressions. But do we do not create discussion and we do not know immediately, the actions that result from our communications.
Social Media: Engagement
Social Media is a whole different animal. Social media is a two-way street. It creates engagement. We send out a message on a channel. We tailor it to the medium with shorter, categorized writing, more headings and sections than usual, more visuals than in traditional media and promotions for what we have written and posted. Now, we get instant feedback. But, not only that. Now we get instant exponential reach. That’s good right? Maybe. It depends on to whom our message goes and by whom it is sent. Yes, it is good that our message gets out to more readers via social media. But who is resending our message? Who is our influencer? What discussion is (s)he creating? Is our message getting to our intended audience? Is the discussion promoting what we, the messenger – the company intended? Maybe or maybe not. These are all risks that exist in traditional media too. The disadvantage of traditional media is that creating a conversation with our audience was a whole exercise on its own.
Whatever the risks of the engagement created by social media, we must see this two-way street as a positive and learn to inquire with our readers and respond in a way that furthers our objectives. We must become more agile – ready to hear the discussion and not only become part of it in a way we have not done before but also to listen. In listening we learn what our target audience actually wants and we have a whole new opportunity at our finger tips – the opportunity to accept what the audience tells us and to use it to make adjustments to our products or services and to find a new pathway to meeting and exceeding the needs of our audiences.
Stay Engaged And Continually Reshape the Message
In today’s world of fully engaged communications – the two way street of social media– we immediately measure the impact of communications strategies, and respond accordingly – according to the expanded audience given to us by influencers. When we read the measurements, we can react in real time. Of course the result we seek is a combination of:
- Lots of people, on lots of channels talking about our company, product or service
- Good things being said, posted, shared, and shared and shared…
- All of this good promotion = action – conversions such as sales
We aim for positive message. We aim for control. Controlling Damage It’s still a negative result when the information out there is negative. And we could say that thanks to the engaged audiences on social media, the damage is exponential compared to the traditional, primarily one-way street of traditional public relations.
Controlling the Message But, there’s a difference when it comes to full engagement. If we are willing to accept the negative discussion that could occur, it is the exact tool we need to turn the tide. It is not the negative discussion that is important (go with me here), it is our reaction to it, the timing of that reaction and how we as communicators then reshape the message. It is our continual engagement and willingness to face what comes that presents the opportunity to improve and to reshape and control the message no matter the initial reaction to our social media strategies and no matter the reach it had.
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Social Media Discussions: The End of Controlling the Message Is the risk to great?