Marketingmag.com.au welcomes Trevor Young is the PR Warrior,
a battle-hardened public relations and marketing communications
consultant, blogger, speaker and trainer. Trevor is principal partner
of strategy and communication advisory firm parkyoung. Prior to co-founding parkyoung, Trevor was for 10 years a co-founder and joint managing director of Spark PR Pty Ltd, and a former director and co-founder of brand experience agency, Ignition Marketing.


I’ve followed for some time the argument (mainly overseas and now outdated) that the emergence of social media will be the death of public relations.

Errr, nup. I don’t think so.

To the contrary, I’d go so far to suggest social media is potentially the best thing to happen to the public relations industry since, well, the advent of the telephone (still a very important tool in our business).

Why this is so is pretty obvious.

Public relations is all about the strategic use of communication to develop and nurture positive relationships with the people who matter to your business.

PR utilises a range of tools and tactics designed to get people talking about brands, products, services, issues or causes. Purveyors of the discipline are adept at educating and influencing people, generating buzz and awareness, and increasing levels of understanding.

In days gone by, PR practitioners have relied heavily on print and broadcast media as a third-party conduit through which to tell their story. It’s no secret this has been an uneasy alliance at the best of times and for a variety of reasons (this is a topic I will leave for a later blog post).

Today, while the media is still vitally important (and no less valuable), the big story is PR practitioners can now use social media to take their message directly to the people.

Let me say that again.

PR practitioners can now use social media to take their message directly to the people.

How good is that?

The balance of power in a communication sense, while still weighing heavily in the media’s favour, has shifted somewhat to companies and brands and their PR representatives (in reality, much of the power is now in the people’s hands).

If PR is about persuasion and influence – educating consumers and informing stakeholders, opening up the channels of communication and getting key influencers and opinion-leaders on-side, creating talkability and third-party endorsement – then having the ability to converse freely with people over and above simply going through the media is a wunnerful thang.

Social media is also having a secondary effect as the media has started to use it as a source of ideas for stories.

Who knows? Standing out in the blogosphere or Twitterverse may bring you to the attention of the media. It’s been known to happen numerous times.

Also, a tip-off to a journalist might lead them to checking out your client on the web, which in turn might develop into a good article or interview.

Then you have the emerging situation where some journalists prefer to be pitched via social media. Smart PR people are already on to this and are getting through directly to pitch their idea rather than competing with the hundreds (thousands?) of voice and email pitches made by their competitors.

Will it be a case in the future where if you can’t Twitterise your pitch (i.e. 140 characters), you’ll be ignored by the media? (Don’t laugh, there are several journos in the UK where this is the case).

Ultimately, public relations professionals are well placed to thrive in a hyper-connected world.

Who better understands the process of two-way communication where content, conversation and relationships are paramount?

Companies, brands and organisations – now more than ever – need to cut through the clutter and get their message out in to the marketplace with passion and clarity.

Conversely, they also require experts who are adept at ‘listening’, who understand the issues, who can monitor what people are saying, identify the trends and influencers, and respond accordingly.

If you believe PR is merely about short-term tactical media publicity, then social media will probably be one giant pain in the arse for you.

While TV, radio, newspapers and magazines remain powerful mediums, growing social media platforms such as Twitter and blogs – which are numerous, disaggregated and grassroots-orientated – are chipping away at traditional media’s influence and authority.

If PR is about two-way communication and now there are scores of new channels through which to communicate, the question is not should you use social media but, can you afford not to?