Social Media vs Public Relations

Some marketing professionals are saying the traditional role of Public Relations has lost some of luster, overtaken by a more contemporary form of PR – social media. Marketing forums and group discussions from to LinkedIn have all been debating this issue But as far as I am concerned, traditional public relations, i.e. press releases, articles, events, etc. will never play a secondary marketing role for most businesses, especially ones that have a brand image that needs to be nurtured and protected.

Social media plays an important role in marketing, but most times it is one that is supporting more traditional marketing and public relations activities.

For example, if a neighborhood restaurant donates a percentage of sales to the local high school marching band, who benefits? Pretty much everyone. The students, the band, the school and the parents, who have to shell out less for the activity. But the hero is the neighborhood restaurant. If they can leverage their generosity with an effective public relations program, it can generate loads of press exposure and tons of goodwill with consumers. Goodwill that can generate ten-fold payback of the actual donation cost.

Could social media pulled this event off as effectively alone? Probably not. Outreach to mass media outlets traditional PR is the marketing tool that does the heavy lifting in generating the kind of media buzz – one that I’ve only seen achievable through PR. Social media can certainly play a role in building awareness to those who are already fans of your business. But most editors and reporters are much too busy to activity monitoring more that a few Social Media channels. They are still looking to their normal PR channels for news worthy items to feature.

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