Social Media and Public Relations Book Review

Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional by Deirdre K. Breakenridge

Social media has become a big field in the business world.  Companies are now realizing that if they want to get their name out there, than they need to be online.  Younger generations have domesticated technologies causing PR companies to lose their purpose.  Technological affordances have allowed us to represent ourselves.  They no longer seem necessary now that celebrities can advertise for themselves and the brands they represent on social media platforms like Twitter.

The Internet has completely changed the world of public relations.  Anyone can now be their own PR manager.  We have to watch for ourselves what we broadcast for the world to see and monitor our brand’s image.  Because of context collapse, a term used by Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd in their article, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience,” we never know who is going to see what we post, or how someone will take it.  Something we thought to be funny could be taken as offensive by someone we have never even met.  The consumption setting, as well as the consumers is unknown to us.

(Screenshot taken by author)

(Screenshot taken by author)

Deirdre K. Breakenridge’s book Social Media and Public Relations is divided into ten chapters: the eight practices, how to use them and the future of PR and social media.  These practices can be for the PR professional alone, or for the entire team to take on.  Breakenridge breaks down her strategies into eight PR practices:

  • The PR Policymaker
  • The Internal Collaboration Generator
  • The PR Technology Tester
  • The Communications (COMMS) Organizer
  • The Pre-Crisis Doctor
  • The Relationship Analyzer
  • The Reputation Task Force Member
  • The Master of the Metrics

Simply put, this book is a guide for bringing PR into the world of social media.  It is a good book for supervisors looking to bring their companies into the twenty-first century of social media.  This book has step-by-step instructions on how to use the latest technologies.  It informs the reader of the importance of making a social media policy in a company, and getting everyone to us it.  It encourages the reader to make their company’s brand image coherent and t hat they should all work as a team.

In terms of Nancy Baym’s four discourses from her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Breakenridge’s book relates to the “social shaping” approach.  Social Shaping is when technology and social context influence each other.  It is a combination of technological determinism and social construction (KLM).  The PR Technology Tester is an example of this social discourse, identifying social influences on technology, and implementing them into the company’s functions.  Breakenridge’s could also bring in Baym’s concepts of bridging social capitol and social ties.

Having no experience in public relations (and being a slow reader), I didn’t move through the book too quickly.  Each practice is meticulously covered, but seemingly easy to follow; however, without a background in social media, you won’t really know what you are doing.  The goal of the book is clear: for the reader to be able to organize their company’s online presence, or create one if it does not already exist.  This book’s ideal reader is a young professional looking to organize their company and regulate internal organizations (KLM).

Based on her article, “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy,” Tiziana Terranova would say that PR is an immaterial labor.  It is beneficial for companies to have immaterial or free labor.  This type of labor helps them to maintain the reputation of their brand because it comes directly from their consumers.  By accommodating their wants, they are improving their image.  Immaterial labor produces cultural content and maintains the reputation of a brand (CarolineMisaki, nk1345, and clcab).

The book seems to be from a business standpoint, rather than a cultural perspective (clcab and vl615).  Professor Portwood-Stacer asked if we would we be better at making money if we brought the cultural, social and business ideas together instead of focusing just on one?  By bringing all of these factors together, we can make the process of becoming PR pros most human.  Another issue is that she gives off the impression that anyone can make the necessary adjustments to use these practices to change the company they work for.  Context is key because in some companies, it is the interns that make these changes, while other companies only allow higher-level positions to implement these kinds of practices.  Each practice seemed separate, but the same person can make many of the changes on his or her own.  The overlap in the book can be good or bad.  If the reader is knowledgeable enough to direct one person for multiple practices, it can save time and money.  But if the reader misunderstands and see each practice separate jobs, it can waste money and resources.

Breakenridge’s ideas could be more condensed.  For a younger generation the book is a little too slow and manual-like.  Today, we want everything fast!  It may just be that the medium of a book is no longer seen as fitting for our needs.  The structure and format is better suited for older generations.

I agree with my classmates that there doesn’t seem to be just one audience.  The book is geared toward an organization, not an individual.  It is aimed at a group in between people who have a background in PR and social media, and people who know absolutely nothing and have no experience.  Breakenridge takes for granted how much of a background the readers have in social media.  If she wanted to aim her book at someone not technologically savvy, she needed to go more in depth.

Breakenridge’s book is full of advice for the PR professional looking to enter the world of social media.  It could use just a few tweaks depending on the audience she is looking to target.  Her practices are great suggestions to becoming a PR pro in a social media-ruled world, but it lacks some information, probably because she assumes her reader is already fairly familiar with social media (nkl1345 and vl615).  It serves as motivation, although somewhat broad and overwhelming.  Even so, the book is a great guide to get a company’s online presence up and running.

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