By Desirae Kay Johnson
Before leaving the States to conduct my study on how Irish public relational practitioners use social media to build relationships with key online audiences, I read a lot of research on PR and social media. Some studies found that PR professionals are successfully adopting social media tools to accomplish objectives, while others suggest that professionals are not taking full advantage of these platforms (i.e. using social media to disseminate organizational messages rather than facilitating dialogue).
While some may believe that Irish PR professionals fall in the latter category rather than former, my initial findings suggest something different: Irish PR practitioners ARE using social media to share company updates, but they ALSO use these tools to have conversations with key audiences.
Several key points that keep coming up in my interviews include:
- Social media is about networking.
- Research, research, and more research is needed to define the personality of a brand and to determine what the audience want to hear (this includes a lot of listening to the feedback of the audience).
- Social media is about developing community and relationships.
- Brands can keep fans coming back to social media sites through interactions.
- There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to developing a social media program. It depends on a variety of factors: the client, what the audience want, and brand culture.
Many of the things that Irish PR practitioners do with their social media programs is similar to developing a traditional PR program: research, planning, implementing, evaluating, applying feedback to program, and more evaluation (something to keep in mind MAIGC students when we get to our capstone classes this fall).
So, yes, Irish public relations professionals DO use social media to promote their clients and share brand messages, but they are more concerned with finding out what it takes to build those relationships. Sometimes it can be trial and error, and it may take a little tweaking to figure it out; but, the goal is to build a program that facilitates dialogue and community among the brand and members of its audience.
To read more about my research in Ireland, or to find out what the other students in the integrated global communication program at Kennesaw State University are doing, visit the MAIGC blog.