How modern technology is changing public relations

Tuesday December 21 2021
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By Business Daily Africa

Public relations, like every other industry, is undergoing disruptions due to technology. These changes are redefining what it means to be a PR practitioner with new skills being required to continue being effective at it.

A big aspect of these changes centres around the use of social media. With a majority of the population getting their news, holding discussions and forming opinions through their favorite social media platforms; not utilising social media for your corporate communications makes you largely invisible.

The instantness of social media means communications and engagements are real-time. Press releases are discussed from the moment they are released and their consequences start to be felt. Bad customer service can quickly degenerate to a crisis if a customer complains about your service online.

Product launches become successful events when they generate buzz on social media in real-time. Monitoring brand awareness and engagement becomes a continuous real-time process. Issues that can negatively affect the brand can be quickly noticed and dealt with.

We all know how good product storytelling is at convincing the public to buy a product. With social media, its effectiveness is taken several notches higher. This is mainly because of user-generated content.

Be it paid influencers, accidental influencers or customers reviews; user-generated contents are very good at communicating your product that an advertising campaign can never hope to accomplish. Brand positioning in the market will ultimately rely on these to drive conversations.


Covid brought about virtual events, online AGMs and social media hangouts. Discussion panels and committee meetings have been held online for a while now.

These instances have called for a rethink of what it means to prepare one’s engagement approach. Areas such as how to dress, how to present and speak have been augmented with issues such as one’s own lighting, camera quality and microphones of devices to be used.

It is not enough to have talking points and answers to potential questions, one also has to think of their background noise, background image and how to maintain decorum online.

When it comes to crisis management, utilising social media is key. Reassuring the public requires constantly updating them on steps being taken to address the issues or crises. This will be through a series of press releases and statements. With social media though, an organization can do the same and much more effectively with a series of tweets.

It is even better because the organization can control the narrative, unlike main media press releases which will have added commentaries from the reporters.

On the flip side, care must be taken as it is just as easy to lose control of the narrative during a crisis. The public is so good at dissecting a crisis on social media and if you do not come across as genuine in your handling of it, they will crucify you. They can make or break your brand during that period.

Online reputations have gained much more prominence in the overall reputations of organisations than ever before. In a lot of instances, it will be the only reputation that matters. Potential customers will form a perception about your brand from what they read about it online.

From your own content through your social media pages and websites to what others are saying through reviews, blog posts and social media content. Protecting and improving that reputation will involve engaging with non-traditional opinion makers and shapers. These are your ordinary customers, influencers, bloggers, YouTubers and other content creators.

When it comes to engaging employees and other internal stakeholders, modern internal communication tools offer effective approaches that ensure key information is disseminated to the right people and in a timely manner.

These tools have improved productivity by also encouraging close collaborations, streamlined reporting structures and made monitoring progress easier. Issues are handled easily and workplace conflicts are resolved early before they get out of hand.

With technology, life has become easier. The same can be said of the PR industry, and just like any other tool, it is how well you leverage it that determines how well it works for you.