The Rising Voice

NEW MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS:

Kate Fitch

With the rise of digital technology and the increased use of the internet, social media plays a dominant role in both the personal and professional fields.

Almost everyone has access to and  is using social media in some shape or form. “The advent of new media means the communication environment is more complex and more immediate, with ‘instantaneous and far-reaching’ consequences for organisations” (Owyang & Toll 2007, p.1, cited in Fitch, 2009, p.337). With the idea that public relations is significantly concerned with the management of relationships and the management of communication (Fitch, 2009) in mind, it only seems plausible that social media is a great tool for practitioners. But is it necessarily beneficial, excessive or damaging to an organisation?

Real life examples have proven how costly and damaging social media can be. With Olympic star Stephanie Rice losing her Jaguar car sponsorship over a “homophobic slur on twitter” (ABC news, 2010) and comedian Catherine Deveny, former employee of The Age, losing her job over tweets she made at the Logies earlier this year (ABC news, 2010).

According to Dougall (2001, cited in Fitch, 2009) new media is one of the biggest challenges facing contemporary public relations. With social media giving power to more individuals to freely express their thoughts and opinions it is easy for an organisation to be caught in the cross fire.

Looking at new media from a theoretical approach, Anne Gregory (2004, cited in Fitch, 2009) classifies the use of technology into two schools of thought.

–          Firstly seeing technology as an extension of existing tactics or a strong channel of communication.

–          Secondly identifying that technology has contributed to a major shift in the balance of power between organisations and publics.

Personally I am torn between both ideas. With this week’s debate topic being, ‘Social media should be included in contemporary public relations campaigns’ it is clear that like many other things, social media and technology has an array of advantages and disadvantages.

I think that if used in the right context and the right way, social media can act as a promotional tool for PR practitioners and organisations. It can promote reputation and image, whilst connecting to publics on a personal and interactive level. However I do believe excessive use of social media is sometimes overwhelming and painful. For example the influx of messages and invitations I receive on facebook is at times annoying, but other times helpful and informing.

In conclusion I personally believe social media is going to increase and further alter the profession of public relations. A common thread in the chapter and the main point I took from reading it, is that social media can be good and it can be bad, but it is what the organisation does with it that is most important.

REFERENCES:

–          ABC news online. 2010. Jaguar dumps Rice after Twitter slur. Viewed 15/10/2010, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/07/3004765.htm

–          Ficth, K. (2009). New Media and Public Relations. In J. Chia & G. Synnott (eds), An introduction to public relations from theory to practice. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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