6 Reasons a PR Pro Needs to Know Social Media

If you’re looking for a career in public relations, you might read the title of this post and think, I’m on Facebook all the time. I know social media! But if you haven’t used social media on behalf of a company, then you aren’t qualified for most PR jobs that require social media expertise…at least [...]

If you’re looking for a career in public relations, you might read the title of this post and think, I’m on Facebook all the time. I know social media!

But if you haven’t used social media on behalf of a company, then you aren’t qualified for most PR jobs that require social media expertise...at least not in the eyes of a potential employer. These days, the lines between PR, marketing, and social media are blurred, and professionals are often expected to have skills in all of these areas.

Here’s why a solid grasp of social media is key for the PR industry.

1. It’s Where the Trends Are
Waiting to pick up a newspaper or magazine to see what’s hot in your industry is useless, since by the time the ink dries, those trends are so, well, five minutes ago. “Social media provides a way to do ongoing research and stay on top of issues and trends among key audiences,” says Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications, LLC.

Twitter makes it dead simple for you to see what the hot topics of discussions are with its Trending section. These hashtags are the ones a large number of users are referring to in tweets.

2. PR is All About Communication
If you got into PR but hate communicating, it’s time to think about going back to school. PR is, after, all, a form of communication, and social media is just one channel.

“PR pros need to know about every channel of communications available to them,” said Jayne Wallace, Director of Corporate Communications at Sprint Prepaid, “That's one thing about the PR business that hasn't changed. You still have to determine who you're trying to reach, and with what message; then you need to choose the best delivery system.”

3. Monitoring is a Necessity
A large part of your job in PR will likely be monitoring what’s being said about your clients. With everyone a publisher, there’s more content to sift through, and most of it is on social media.

“PR people need to be able to monitor mentions of clients and brands around the world and engage with those customers through relevant conversation,” explained Dan Grody of Tellem Grody PR.

4. Customers Want a Personal Connection
Consumers are no longer happy getting ads forced on them from brands. They want to interact with the companies they buy from in meaningful ways. Social media facilitates that interaction. If you manage your employer’s or your client’s social media profile, it’s your job to connect with customers one-on-one.

5. Breaking News is Now
Just like with trends, news is more accessible and on-demand than ever before. Being in PR, it’s your job to both know breaking news and get out breaking news for your client asap.

“In a 24 hour news cycle, you can often respond to things quicker via social than with traditional public relations tools,” said Nicole McGougan, Public Relations Associate for Blackbaud, Inc.

6. Reporters are Social
Your main job is to build relationships with the media. If reporters and journalists are there, you should be too.

“Reporters are on social [media]. If media relations is a staple of PR, social provides the opportunity to meet and engage influential people, like reporters, covering your space,” said Frank Strong, Director of Public Relations for Vocus and PRWeb.

Separate Fields, but for How Long?
Right now, if you earn a degree in PR, you might take a course on social media. But jobs in PR, social media, and marketing are still different enough that you can focus on one area and get by. But soon, says Philip S. Chang, partner at Carbon, there won’t be a line among these.

“It's all going to be the same,” Chang said, “We already don't make that kind of distinction for TV, radio, print, or other mediums. The number one reason social media deserves its own category, for now, is because there's such a gap between what people know and what they have to learn.”

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