Public relations is all at once a timeless and a dated industry. Why do we say this? Well for starters, there will always be a need for public relations. The image/message that a business sends to consumers is vital, and having a public relations firm or consultant on retainer can help navigate the tricky world of communications.
But public relations is also an industry that must continue to evolve with consumer trends as well as trends within each individual industry. In that sense, PR (as with the marketing and communications fields) is dated and requires professionals constantly learn about what’s coming to effectively stay one or two steps ahead.
There are many challenges facing modern public relations professionals who may still be accustomed to practices that may not work quite as well today. In addition, it can be challenging simply to manage a timeline for a client in an age where information spreads rapidly around the internet, often regardless of the truth.
One of the biggest challenges today is the spread of information at such a rapid pace. In a profession in which a consultant is paid to be on top of stories, how can they ensure they’re the first to the issue once news does come out? One way to stay ahead is to set up news alerts for any topics or keywords that are relevant to clients. These alerts can easily be set up using Google, and many professionals use this free service to make sure they never miss a beat of the industry they choose.
Another way to stay on top of information is also to monitor social media chatter. Consumers can start conversations that go viral quickly, and if the conversation is negative for a brand this can create fallout that is difficult to come back from. So make sure that notifications are set up to monitor mentions on social media and any other conversations related to the client or their brand.
Once a conversation starts, especially online, it can be hard to stop it. Brands should always be prepared to respond quickly if needed, which means that they may rely on their public relations team to be the first to know the developing situation.
What happens once a conversation has begun, though? As we mentioned earlier, in today’s internet-reliant age, information spreads all too quickly. In addition, misinformation spreads just as quickly as true information. The lack of vetting and fact-checking by the majority of social media users is alarming, as is the propensity to create false information in the first place.
By meeting this challenge head-on, public relations pros can successfully calm down the masses. Let’s say that a sportscaster makes a flub on live television, sparking a fierce Twitter debate as to the credibility of the network after the off-color comment was accidentally uttered and aired.
The sportscaster should, in most cases, take responsibility for actions that have happened, in advedent or not. The most important point to drive home here is that transparency and accountability can often go a long way to help calm down an angry social media crowd. If nothing else, they can at least not accuse the subject of making excuses.
One thing to remember, though, is that in all of this, the spread of information can actually help in the event of a faux pas. How so? Because in many cases, as quickly as fervor picks up around a story, the attention is also diverted elsewhere. Of course, this is not a justification for sticking your head in the sand and waiting for trouble to blow over. Rather, this is a reminder that some missteps will easily be forgotten, but it comes down to how the company handles itself going forward that will continue to matter.