Public Relations and the Changing Landscape.

South African PR professionals, I’m talking to you. Actually, I’m listening. How does your role and work augment this ever-changing world of new media?

It seems that regardless of regional specification, when it comes to the use and integration of social media (especially in the early stages of the social media adoption cycle), PR pros often find a number of new and time-consuming tasks added to their existing to-do lists.

As chief relationship-builders, PR pros already liaison with a myriad of traditional media and influencers, including television reporters, newspaper editors and radio DJ’s, to gain coverage and partnership in the promotion of their clients’ brands.

However, the current landscape introduces new digital relationships to build and new media to manage.

Bloggers, for instance, of whom there are more than 150 million in the world. A blogger can instigate authentic conversations with an audience that trusts them in a way that traditional media is not always trusted. Bloggers are also their own jury and gatekeeper for content decisions, writer and publisher.

Finding the most influential and appropriate bloggers to reach out to and then developing a trusting relationship with each of them, however, takes months of research and outreach efforts. A blanketed BCC email blast to a list of bloggers is no more effective than an impersonal pitch to a traditional media source, and an impersonal pitch to a blogger will earn you scathing scorn that is irreparable within your key communities.

So how to connect in a personal way? Social media.

Twitter creates a unique environment with the ability to observe a blogger’s tone, interests, and dislikes. Twitter also allows for the kind of immediate and personal connection that can build a relationship, but such observation and interaction takes time.

As does the management and monitoring of, and interaction on, Facebook and other social media. Fan page upkeep on behalf of clients often falls upon the shoulders of the PR team. With wall posts, discussion boards, promotions and contests, applications, @replies and messages, there are numerous ways for a consumer to reach out and interact with a brand via social media. But that means an innumerable need for response. Again, often from the PR team (or person).

How and where does this responsibility blur or cross-over with a “digital department?” Or the marketing department? Do all work in a complementary partnership? Does it depend on the size of the agency and the range of services that are offered? Or does PR carry the bulk of the weight of the new and social media  management on their shoulders?

I’m listening, South African PR professionals. Please share your perspective.

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