Social media has revolutionized the way people communicate. It has also had a dramatic effect on the field of public relations. Press releases are shared on Facebook, public apologies are tweeted and new products are introduced through sites like Pinterest. These are just a few examples of how PR professionals are taking their work to a new level using social media.
And while social media gives us more ways to communicate and share our messages, we cannot lose sight of the fact that these outlets must be treated with the same respect as traditional media outlets. Time and again we see the mistake of treating social media too casually.
One click of a mouse sends a message that is accessible to the entire world, and that message then gets sent around more and more social circles. One mistake can turn loyal consumers against brands and even make the headline news. Social media is a wonderful national and international outlet, but it must not be approached foolishly.
In public relations, there are many ways social media can become a problem if used improperly. One problem that PR professionals have always dealt with, and social media intensifies, is the issue of privacy. Privacy has always been a hot-button issue.
According to Scientific American, privacy has been a topic of interest in this county for centuries. From the 1700s when mail was opened as it passed through the postal system to the ratification of the 14th Amendment, Americans have tried to define what boundaries are appropriate between private and public life. Social media has not only intensified this debate, but brought it to a whole new level.
How should PR professionals approach this issue when it comes to social media? The best method is to treat social media as you would any other traditional media outlet. When you put together a press release, confirm that all who are named and quoted give their consent for this information to be released. Make sure that anyone in photographs you plan to use for media distribution or marketing materials has signed a photo release.
Anything you would normally do when sending materials to the media, whether it be getting signed waivers or verbal consent, you need to do for social media as well. This will ensure that the message is appropriate and consistent, whether the story should appear on your brand Facebook page or other media outlets who may decide to run the story.
Privacy in the age of social media may be a concern, but taking the same precautions you do when working on a traditional distribution of materials to the public or media will ensure you have covered your bases.
A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it on a billboard (or in our case, a press release), don’t say it on social media.