Social Media and Public Relations Notes

Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge)

Overview: Deirdre Breakenbridge provides a toolkit for the PR professional to navigate the digital era, where social media seems to largely impact one’s success in the field.

Major Points (& How They Relate to CSMT): 


  • Social media as Social Shaping: “Dynamics that have shaped public relations in the past are not only present in social media, but often accentuated and amplified by it”
  • Social media keeps story relevant
  • No longer a top-down paradigm — individuals can interact with brand thus, PR professionals must manage communities
  • Technologically Determinist in saying “adapt or die trying”
  • Deidre provides a blueprint for the “era of a social business”

Introduction: When Social Media Meets PR, Communication Unites With Technology

  • PR = Interactions and decisions are increasingly visible
  • Competence in new information technologies is key
  • New practices
    • Social media + PR
    • Communications + technology

PR Practice #1: The PR Policy Maker: Developing, implementing, governing & maintaining social media policies

  • Companies and employees are talking about brands more — Have more agency in shaping brands
  • Guidelines for participation — “Protect parties participating”
  • Responsibilities: Four areas: Getting ready, Assembling team, Research and writing, Communicating and measuring compliance
    • Monitoring employee conversations acts as a form of surveillance in which companies ensure compliance
  • Advised to look at competitors approach to social media as well
    • Surveillance/Lurking
  • Must update social media policy every 6 months // Audit
    • Surveillance/Maintenance
  • Ambiguity of social media policy may restrict employees’ right to free speech: Unfair firing because of what is said on a personal FB page
  • Questionnaires, monitoring, quizzes (Listening to employee conversations) in order to see how the social media policy is working
    • Lurking on employee conversations
  • Good policy: Reflects how people communicate

PR Practice #2: The Internal Collaboration Generator: Facilitation of communication within an organization makes for increased innovation and collaboration (“Change management”)

  • Better communications on the inside = Better communications on the outside
  • Efficient means of communication — Evidence through competitors communication technologies
    • Surveillance
  • Must aggregate opinions on communication technologies
    • Free labor
  • Changing perceptions using influencers within an organization
    • Targeted advertising/ Segmentization
  • Higher level sharing needs must meet communication methods
  • Constant communication is key
  • Message & goals must be re-iterated — Repetitive communication leads to greater success
  • Many agencies are slow to adopt new technologies: More traditional forms of communication like e-mail
  • “Collaboration and idea sharing are fundamental to innovation”
    • Standage “Social Networking 1600s”
  • Using traditional methods: “Cancerous to growth”
  • Must weigh cost and benefits
  • Collaborative benefits:
    • Clients can track what their PR firm is doing
    • Clients understand who’s doing what
    • Measure consistently
    • Common understanding about what efforts are being made

PR Practice #3: The PR Technology Tester: Competency in shifting technologies

  • Research, test, implement technology: Technologies are constantly changing
    • Perpetual beta
  • Technology leads to better monitoring, better strategies
  • Targeted approach: Ability to target specific groups
    • Segmentation
  • Adopting different mindset: Immerse self in technology
  • “Listening process”: Social media requires you to listen through keywords
  • SEO Techniques: In tune with how constituents are searching
  • Ability to monitor relevant conversations as well as competitors: Tremendous amount of research
  • Identify key influencers
  • Social media metrics can be compared with sales, website analytics: Social media drives users to company’s site. (See p. 44)
  • INFLUENCE & KLOUT: Understand the influential voices in a space is essential — Must weigh in various factors beyond the size of someone’s network sizes (Trust, value of information)
  • Contribute to hashtag: Must know and be savvy to the affordances of a technology in order to engage with it
    • Papacharissi, Hashtag games
  • What technologies should a brand use? — Looking at the affordances of a technology

PR Practice #4: The Communications (COMMs) Organizer: Implementation of a new “communications process”

  • Media is no longer top-down
    • Broadcast approach: Doesn’t account for people’s agency
  • Monitoring and observation of behavior of people within the community: Messages are no longer handed from the top: Monitor/Listen/Respond
  • Content is king, context is queen
  • Crowdsourcing information

PR Practice #5: The Pre-Crisis Doctor: Crises prevention, for-seeing negative outcomes before they happen

  • Pre-Crisis Doctor: Listens before a crisis actually occurs
    • Audience segments: Measuring participation gives organization insight on how different communities engage with brand
  • Internal sharing to document crisis
  • Emphasis on bloggers and influencers
  • Methods of managing context collapse?

PR Practice #6: The Relationship Analyzer: How audience connects with their brands in addition to the peer in web communities (Acting as a lurker)

  • Looking at how different audience segments interact with brand
  • Topics of interest
  • Where are people congregating? — Must understand different cultures of different communities
    • Lurking on community standards
  • Different experience for different communities
    • Managing context collapse
  • “Relationship Boosters” to move “casual relationships to higher steps”
    • Latent, weak, strong ties
    • Bridging, bonding, maintaining
    • Employing different forms of capital

PR Practice #7: The Reputation Task Force Member: Tracking and monitoring in order to maintain reputation (Surveillance)

  • Building relationships with a human voice: Employing brand voice (However unique voice breaks through???)
  • Communications must be uniform in voice
  • A form of policing

PR Practice #8: Measuring outcomes, accounting for growth (Challenging)

  • Social media metrics will be a way of showing a company’s growth — Identifying factors to track growth so that companies are able to present it in a meaningful way.

The Future of PR and Social Media

  • Can no longer control communication, only shape it — The paradigm shift between old and new media


  • Social Media represents the shift between old media and new media
  • PR Professionals must adapt to social media and coming technologies in order to “keep up”
  • Identifying bloggers and key influencers
  • Surveillance, monitoring and lurking conversations within and outside the company
  • Internal communication = External communication
  • Shifting technologies


  • The term “social media champion” within departments confuses me: How does this champion get determined within an organization?
  • How will social media policies contend with First Amendment rights?
  • How do we account for social media on an international scale? e.g. China blocks Facebook and Twitter — so how is it possible to a company to hit that market?
  • What revisions to the book will be made when considering the coming of wearable technology?
  • What are the potential risks of targeting bloggers and influencers?
  • How do brands give a human voice?


  • Based on this book, Public Relations relies heavily on surveilling and lurking on conversations within the community — this can be seen as a breach of privacy.
  • Aggregating consumer opinions in addition to crowdsourcing information is a form of immaterial/free labor
  • In regards to emphasis on SEO in Practice 3: Google is not really a place for accidental searches. Moreover, Google changes their algorithm daily and accounts for White Box SEO, so I’m always wary about the legitimacy of SEO in increasing page rank and visibility.
  • Segmentation, which is heavily emphasized, can often be problematic esp.  in the case of targeted advertising where the generalities made about groups are often monetized in a way that is un-beneficial to the group itself.




  1. […] online. It was odd that Breakenridge didn’t acknowledge this as a privacy breach, something Kaitlin also observed. D2i unanimously agreed that reading up on Lee Humphreys’ controversial […]

  2. […] to step back and say, “This is just a trend…I don’t really have to dig in” (149). Kaitlin Gu agrees that Breakenridge is telling us to “adapt or die trying.” Social media became of a part […]

  3. […] is to understand how an audience connects with their brands and to their respective communities. As Katilin Gu pointed out in her notes, the analyzer acts as a lurker in order to gauge topics of interest, […]

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