Just because social media is the PR tool everyone is talking about, it doesnt mean its should always be used.
The rapid development of digital technology makes it difficult to predict how publics and audiences will use new software, and which applications may be useful for public relations professionals even in one year’s time. Further, as Barr suggests the very idea of public relations as communication management is challenged in a society in which everyone is potentially a producer of information. social media That is, if you Google search any corporate name, you will find the company’s genuine website as well as links to Wikipedia entry, Youtube videos, news stories, activist websites and the like. An example is nestles PR disaster with social media. Which happened earlier this year.
What had happen was Greenpeace created a bizarre video spoof of a Kit Kat commercial. It portrayed a man at work eating the finger of an orangutan out of a Kit Kat wrapper.
Environment enthusiasts across the world immediately spread the word, which created a public embarrassment for Nestle. People started jumping onto facebook and naturally nestle fan page had increase number of fans, but most people were only joining to post negative comments about nestle. Greenpeace supports went as far as to change their facebook profile photos to anti nestle slogans, one example was the kit-kat food logo changed to the word killer. Nestle reacted with a mild threat saying : To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic- they will be deleted.” Eventually after some more posts by angry publics the nestle rep started to become condescending towards commenter’s, which just added more fuel to the fire. (see examples of posts here) Proceeded to delete post. This quickly spread over the net, and other social media platforms…the period between 13th and 22nd of march there were over 215,00 tweets of the issue..within minutes nestlea’s foray into social media had become one of today’s biggest online pr disasters.
Lessons to be learned
1) It’s not exactly two-way- symmetrical
2) Clearly pr people don’t make the rules when it comes to social media
In other words, there is a shift in power between organisations and publics. It is in fact harder for organisations to control debates and discussions from a top-down sense.
Although, as the affirmative side might argue that technological developments and new media tend to be viewed as additional public relations channels or tactics to serve strategic purposes, but public relations practices tends to rely heavily on this top down sense or asymmetrical and sender-message – receiver models of communication. But this power practitioners believe to be in their court is illusionary as suggested by Fawkes and Gregory (2000:122.)
“the over reliance on the transmission model of communication may have misled the practitioner into an illusion of control, while in reality users have always constructed their own meanings from messages, according to their own social and psychological needs.”
To elaborate, we can now see an even more fallacies in the statement that social media SHOULD be included public relations campaign.
Firstly, in every campaign the target public and demographic will be different. That is as herger and howell suggest we cannot assume new media is engaging or ensuring a symmetrical relationship with their publics or audience. Because of a digital divide, due to demographics and various levels of internet literacy and reach, relative anonymity of online users.
Secondly even if even if the selected audience uses social media the literature as previously mentioned has predicted that it is very hard for public relations practitioners to control how the information is perceived.
Basically, depending on your target public, and your overall s public relation goal, social media it not always necessary in a campaign. But when it is, for example when to reach the internet savvy public then it should always be used in conjunction with traditional media to maximise outcomes. Public relations practitioners when using new media in campaigns do not yet exploit their potential to promote two-way communication and dialogue.
Social media is however, a better tool for relationship management – where applicable by applicable I mean in terms of the target public and overall pr goal, or suitable, in the sense of creating better opportunities for participation, consultation and discussion rather than a means of one way communication.
Barr, T (2000) Newmedia.com.au: The changing face of Australia’s media and communications. Allen & Unwin: Sydney
Chia, J & Synnott, G. (2009). An introduction to public relations: from theory to practice, Oxford University Press: Australia & New Zealand.
Fawkes, J & Gregory, A. (2000). Applying Communication theories to the internet. Journal of Communication Management, 5(2), 109-124
Herger, K & Howell, G. (2007). The Good, The bad, and the blogger: the public relations challenge of the noughties. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 8, pp.91-108
For the facts of the case study on Nestle I have used several different blogs and web articles
Mc-Carthy, C. (2010) Nestle mess shows sticky side of Facebook pages. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20000805-36.html
Team position. (2010) Nestle’s PR & Crisis Management Nightmare. Retrieved from http://blogs.position2.com/nestles-pr-crisis-management-nightmare
Weishaupt, J. (2010) Nestle meltdown on facebook shows the sticky side of social media. Retrieved from http://www.joergweishaupt.com/online-marketing/facebook-online-marketing/nestle-meltdown-on-facebook-shows-sticky-side-of-social-media.html
Nizam. (2010) Case study: the Facebook Nestle Mess. Retrieved from http://omgzam.com/case-study-the-facebook-nestle-mess/