My “Social Media and Public Relations” Notes

Notes: Social Media and Public Relations by Deirdre K. Breakenridge


  • Explore new approaches to PR w/modern-day digitally connected consumer
    • Must “develop specific policies to guide employee and public participation, experiment with content through a variety of social media channels, and learn to connection and build relationships with stakeholders through new technologies” (1)
  • ** Need to know how to competently use information technologies
  • Eight new PR practices:
  1. The PR Policymaker –> develop and maintain social media
  2. The Internal Collaboration Generator –> work between departments
  3. The PR Technology Tester
  4. The Communications (COMMS) Organizer –> educate on new comm process
  5. The Pre-Crisis Doctor –> build crisis prevention plans based on SNSs
  6. The Relationship Analyzer –> watch how audiences connect w/brands and themselves
  7. The Reputation Task Force Member
  8. The Master of the Metrics
  • How to apply eight new strategies to social media strategy and planning
  • Do not abandon old, core PR practices!
  • The goal is for you to be a propelling force to educate others in your organization
  • ** PR then = “simply handling and facilitating messages” vs. PR now = resulting in “powerful information exchange and deeper and more meaningful relationships” (7)

#1: The PR Policymaker

  • Audit pinpoints strengths and weaknesses –> list could be enriched by discussion of the necessity for a consistent, coherent narrative (Giddens)
  • ** Importance of a brand to take part in a two-way conversation w/public (like bi-directional!), to take constructive criticism
  • Could have used a stronger introduction of PR practices for those not super familiar with the field before diving right into what needs to change now
  • Need fellow employees on board after writing policy, otherwise will fall through the cracks. But how do you go about pinpointing who in the staff has social media handicaps without singling people out? And do the seminars cost the company money and productivity? How do you cater to such a vast array of social media experience in the crowd?
  • Also rely on fellow employees for feedback. But how often have anyone put surveys in mailboxes or tried to interview someone and have been blown off? Perhaps they will care more because they work for the company/are invested? Seems too easy… not considering realistic human reactions.
  • ** 1st Amendment rights: “If employees are speaking on behalf of a company, they should abide by company standards” –> becoming a type of performance!? (20)
    • But WHEN are they speaking on their behalf? Even when they’re at home? When do you officially “take a break” from being a PR pro? (Point of contention)
    • Social media makes PR less about speaking from the company and more about “influencing” what others are saying about the company (21)
      • No longer just talking to the media!! WIDE REACH (Baym)
      • Must act as team = consistency across ALL involved (difficult to do) (Giddens)
        • Consistent narrative of the self

#2: The Internal Collaboration Generator

  • PR = about communication skills!! (internally and externally)
  • Use modern technology to advance collaboration – did not explicitly mention the concept of disembedding! (Slater) ADVANTAGES
  • But does everyone in the workplace even already know each other? THAT is the question. There must be some latent ties in there, especially with a big agency that has multiple departments.
  • Mentions varying levels of comfort/knowledge w/technology. Perhaps advancing the point by asking why? Are there technological determinists? Actually, you really can’t be to work in modern day PR… Must show everyone the social shaping theory and how we can all work together (machine and humans, too).
    • As ICG, unconsciously manage all three types of viewpoints in one group (technological determinist, social constructionist, social shaping) –> change is accepted by all three slowly
    • Put together Coalition to figure out how peers feel about technology – must have close relationship/respect from peers –> stronger ties! (Can change perceptions – opinion leaders)
    • I’m wondering whether this internal sharing could constitute creating an SNS specifically for the company. Or they could use Facebook and have a private group, etc. One question is whether it should have an RSS feed – so profile vs. media-centric. But one can communicate just as efficiently on profile-centric sites… (IM, private messages, too)

#3: The PR Technology Tester

  • “Guiding communication requires a deeper understanding of not only how technology works, but also how it facilitates better interactions with the public” (37) – sounds like what we’ve been learning about!
  • High school and college grads have almost domesticated social media, as she implies. Difference between domestication in generations?
  • “Listening” – must always be “on” looking for what’s being said (via SEO)
  • “Share of Voice” in a platform… how much participation. I have trouble understanding how SOV matters in platforms like Twitter, where number of followers, retweets, replies, etc can be so arbitrary (if you’re not a celebrity).
  • It’s amazing the info you can gather online: what influencers are interested in what you’re saying, the geography of audience, trending topics.
    • Gather click-through data, too, like how long someone was on a page and how many people visited/from where in the world. Any concerns about users’ privacy? (Point of controversy) Ex: HootSuite, TweetDeck
    • Gather SO MUCH data from visitors! Know users’ surfing habits, how long they stay on the site, and which sites they went to before they came there.
    • Look for influencers to adopt your brand: based on Audience Size, Audience Engagement, and Relevance (Importance of audience as a commodity. Doesn’t include the possibility of being tricked by potential influencers having bought followers)
    • Use tools to find influencers –> importance of authenticity/impression management through getting another person to talk about the brand (seems like it’s coming from them genuinely, even if they were manipulated, as opposed to the brand talking about itself)
    • Can’t only research popular platforms your audience is on – must participate. Participant observation!!
      • Point of contention, though, in how you use it vs. how the normal millennial does. How can you have those true answers to how they use it if you’re not posting the same content/understanding why? Maybe ask a young family member…
      • Following brands makes people feel like they are the “first to know” = intimacy (51)
      • ** Always remember that it’s not the technology’s job to do the advertising –> social shaping concept of working together. Create good content (53)!

#4: The Communications (COMMS) Organizer

  • Change process to social media –> old model not consider two-way dialogue and need for participation in web communities
    • Uni-directional vs. modern day bi-directional
    • Need to research what people are saying in online communities, to figure out what to expect from brand
      • ** Could mention: this is where online and offline identities connect. What you do online to make people feel heard and engaged affects sales of the brand/products offline. Intersection!
        • People want to feel heard –> performed intimacy? Can this come across as inauthentic?
        • But while monitoring/observing what’s said: LURKER status. Creepy?
        • All “classes” of company now involved in this stage, not only senior or junior members
        • “Create cohesive and consistent messaging so that social media does not fragment the brand” (58) –> Goffman impression management + Giddens consistent narrative, starts internally
          • Also need to send message out at good timing. CONTEXT (like when new product released)
          • Repurposing already existing content “into a human voice” (60)
          • Act as “friend” (conflict: definition of friend online…), as opposed to a cold, distant business –> avoid sounding “spammy”. Performed intimacy
            • TONE IS KEY
            • Look to influencers, who drive community, to see what they’re talking about –> develop content based on this! In a way “public display of connections” in connecting to each other via ideas/shared values?
            • “We live in a world where everyone can get the kind of exposure formerly reserved for celebrities” (66). Like networked microcelebrity except w/brand/company? –> Attention economy (Tufekci)

#5: The Pre-Crisis Doctor:

  • Overly repetitive emphasis in every chapter of monitoring social media, paying attention to what customers/stakeholders are saying
    • Would like to know the step before of how to figure out who are the customers (I know this differs from brand to brand, but how do you know who your customer is?)
    • Instantaneous communication w/customer = more difficult time handling crises b/c they immediately spin out of control. No hiding!
    • Perhaps a discussion of “saving face” would’ve been pertinent here?
    • Social Media Crisis Org Chart = almost like public display of connections? Notes who is involved/connected to the brand during a crisis, who can help
    • Point of contention: Customer conversations documented and categorized into “conversation buckets”. Surveillance much??
      • Question of creepiness in terms of intention/no concentration on particular people, only their comments. She doesn’t elaborate on the potential invasion of privacy/how horrified this surveillance could make people.
      • ** Basing reactions to potential crises on comments seen on social media. But not taking into consideration the nuanced points of view of people NOT on social media. Need to address that not the entire world is online.
      • Influencer status (number of followers/audience) affects how serious negative online comments are taken, despite the fact that she says that “everyone is important.” P.O.C.
      • Shell of the message = knowing what the company’s policy in situations is. Consistent narrative, again! Sprinkled throughout the entire book, I bet.
      • Strong ties w/influencers!! (i.e. media like bloggers, journalists)
        • Media multiplexity in that, w/a strong relationship, they will reach out to you for clarification, to get info and commentary –> get brand’s point of view out there!
        • Seems more authentic, anyway, to have another person vouching for the company
        • Influencers = greater reach/audience
        • P.O.C. Because social media is a part of everyone’s daily lives outside of work, too, and employees can mention their company on their personal sites, will the company go so far as to monitor their own employees’ SNSs for badmouthing, consistency in handling negativity, etc? They’re already monitoring the rest of the world… CREEPY. Surveillance!

Bigger problem with book: Who is it addressing? An entire company or an individual working in PR? Puts forth many points for setting up a plan for dealing with social media/different positions people need to embody. Very specific, down to exact time periods at time. But if a regular, lower level employee is reading this, how are they supposed to put this blueprint into action besides just paying attention to social media more? It’s ultimately up to their boss…

#6: The Relationship Analyzer

  • Point of contention in past: journalists used to feel stalked by PR pros who knew too much about them. Now tech gives opportunity to know a lot about everyone – creepy still or just taking advantage of the circumstances?
  • Read who is your audience –> categorize them
    • Create “Audience Profile”, find out what interests them so you can “fake” intimacy as a peer as opposed to a PR pro (P.O.C.) p. 90
    • ** Capitalize on relationships –> social capital? (would be useful concept!!)
      • Trading in favors in this case is like gaining people’s trust and then using it to get people to buy/think a certain way about a brand (my theory based on what’s said)
      • “Social grooming” would be great here too! Transition from a Casual Friend to a Trusted Confidant (91-2)
        • Explain each step but not how you get to each one
        • Her analysis is very robotic, focusing on using technology (like analytics) to “visualize your relationship” (92)
        • Also said that you have to develop relationships on multiple sites from Twitter to LinkedIn to Facebook –> media multiplexity in building a strong tie?!
        • Suggests for brands to engage differently with consumers depending on the SNS: Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ have different rules (95-97)
          • Each site has its own social norms –> discussion of SNS communities vs. ethnic communities possible?!
          • With online newsroom, PR pros can communicate with a wide range of stakeholders and influencers
            • Course concept: is this due to the disembedding of the Internet or the disembodiment of differences being neutralizes online (don’t concentrate on motivations/fact that talking to a PR spokesperson)?
              • FEWER SOCIAL CUES lead to to communication with people you wouldn’t talk to otherwise (i.e. dating sites matching an older man with a younger woman and chemistry ensuing online)
              •  “Door openings” like RTing someone’s content or thanking someone for RTing yours –> relationship building for social capital down the road (like being a client or promoting a brand) p. 101

#7: The Reputation Task Force Member

  • Reputation = goal of PR
    • Signs given vs. given off might enhance this idea –> not as simple to control as someone monitoring SNSs
    • Also “reputation management” = impression management (already mentioned in notes)
    • Social media makes monitoring a daily part of life –> easy to SEE what’s going on online, instead of waiting for a story to come out about a crisis (before)
    • Repetition AGAIN in importance to monitoring online activity
      • Obviously important in ALL aspects of PR nowadays
      • Building relationships = Key theme throughout all chapters basically
      • Mention need to get to crises within 24 hours if not even sooner w/social media. But what about the permanence of the Internet? Couldn’t the conflict come back to haunt them later? (Baym)
      • Create a “human face” –> performativity of a company becoming a relatable human online
        • Problematic in it really being a lie to customers by putting a created persona forward?
        • People like talking to other people, not a company! Feel more comfortable to air grievances if feel being empathized with by another human being (106)
          • This trust leads to relationships in which advocates will tell you exactly what they think (build strong ties)
          • “The trust you build often extends directly to the brand” (107), even though your personality is coming across, not the company’s, technically…
        • ** Enhanced reading: could bring in the concept of not only content but choosing a persona that appeals to the lowest common denominator/doesn’t offend nightmare readers.
        • “Brand Style Guide” once again = consistent narrative (Giddens) p. 108
          • I.e. Voice, style, tone
          • ** Challenge of always making sure team members are on the same page and understands what’s expected. Everyone, including non-SNS-focused employees must be educated/trained. Anyone going on any SNS is involved. Universal PR problem described throughout!
          • Set up keyword monitoring to gather any negative sentiment (110) But how can you realistically monitor ALL of these comments (also key problem I notice throughout all of this monitoring stuff)
            • Daily monitoring via Google Alerts and mentions: paranoid or necessary?
            • Does social media make it harder or easier for PR pro to manage brand reputations? DIGITAL DIVIDE in a way. Depending on companies’ access to and ability to afford sophisticated social monitoring tools – small vs. large companies’ capabilities (Point of Contention!) (114)

#8: The Master of the Metrics

  • Necessity of goals (118) –> but w/social media (my opinion) there’s no guarantee of achieving those goals! SNSs are fickle!!
    • Yet PR pros are asked to show accountability, proof
    • Metrics explanation and ROI definition is a bit unclear/hard to follow in relation to how social media factors in. Just know it’s about the $$, business outcomes.
      • Much more detailed and jargon-y than other chapters
      • ** (Breakenridge): Constantly reevaluating and evolving social media strategy based on what works. (Key Theme) Detailed way to evolve/review on p. 124-125
        • Reminds me of Giddens’ reflexive project of the self –> constantly evolving and updating à like a PR team is ultimately ONE BEING
        • ** P.O.C. (might’ve pointed this out earlier) she mentions that can’t only analyze official SNSs of the organization… the employees’ networks as well! But for most employees anywhere, their bosses/the company is a “nightmare reader”. This doesn’t allow them to disembody themselves from a work identity.
          • Or am I misinterpreting the way she presents this?

Ch. 9 and 10

  • Common thread (according to author) = relationships
  • ** Social media gives everyone/anyone a voice!
    • Reminds me of “Anthropological Intro to YouTube” and the vlogs being a portal for users to express themselves
    • Author stresses the importance of trust and relationship building within companies –> when PR pros become influencers, they must use their power for good
    • ** Encouraging/embracing change is important in PR –> no technological determinists allowed. But is this a prerequisite for hiring someone? Is it a question that’s asked during the interview process: “Do you fear change?”?
    • PR’s job is to make brand/product relevant to the world –> “capture attention through meaningful experience and for company messages to reach the public and be considered highly relevant” (147)

** LABOR: the entire PR field is essentially immaterial labor (Terranova) –> creating cultural capital by influencing people’s viewpoints

** Although as this book has been organized into eight separate sections pertaining to different skill sets, ULTIMATELY they all bleed into each other and the content can get repetitive.


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