Talk to any public relations (PR) professional and they’ll admit that the advent of digital marketing and social media has changed their industry. Some will say they’ve adapted. And I truly believe that some have. But not all.
Some still don’t fully understand this new form of marketing, in particular Facebook as a social media and advertising platform, from the client’s perspective. Without understanding that they’ll never understand what they’re up against, so let me share my perspective as a fairly steady PR client since 2004. I’ve co-founded two consumer products companies. During the past year that we’ve been using PR for my current company, Thread Experiment, which sells home bedding designed for men. I’ve noticed a significant change in the impact of PR since 12 years ago when I founded my first company.
In its most basic function, PR gets brands placed in various media sources. Whether it be magazine, TV or blog, a mention of your brand, a product photo, or a full write-up on your business often creates fantastic exposure to readers/viewers of that medium. Implied in that placement is a form of unbiased endorsement of the brand. As a result, readers or viewers are likelier to shop and/or purchase the brand’s products. That’s the goal of PR, anyway.
Even when PR placement doesn’t directly result in a sale, it still has an ancillary benefit -- branding. One exposure may not make a sale but repeated exposures, at a minimum sharpen brand recognition that may ultimately cause a consumer to order products. Hiring a PR firm (or someone in-house) is not inexpensive. Costs ranging between $35,000-$120,000 per year are typical, depending on the firm, the brand and the work involved. What a PR firm provided for you was irreplaceable with results incomparable to basic advertising. For obvious reasons, it is always more influential for a third-party to endorse your brand (PR) rather than for you to boast about how great your brand is (advertising).
In my opinion, however, Facebook has reduced the positive impact of PR and is challenging whether PR is "irreplaceable" or "incomparable" anymore. This has occurred in two completely different ways.
1. Lack of loyalty to news sources diminishes their influence.
The internet boasts a seemingly limitless number of media outlets and blogs covering topics ranging from politics to fashion. These media publish articles and distribute them through their own Facebook accounts. Facebook users then read and share these articles on Facebook all day and all night. It never seems to stop.
The result? More people are reading articles from more news sources than ever before. In the good ol’ days, people typically had one or two newspapers delivered to them each morning and received three to five magazines each week. Throw in a couple of regular TV news programs and that made up the full extent of media sources a person would consume.
Nowadays, with Facebook, readers are exposed to more news stories from more news outlets than ever before. The news they consume does not just come from the media they follow but also from the 300 to 3,000 friends on Facebook who spend all day sharing stories from their own personal news feeds. (On a side note, what’s up with these people who have 3,000 Facebook friends?)
With so much news to consume from so many different media outlets, readers are no longer getting their information from a few news sources.