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How Social Media Has Changed Breaking News & 5 Ways to Use It For Public Relations

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

In January 2009, US Airways flight 1549 hit a flock of geese shortly after take-off, this stalled the planes engines. Pilot Chesley Sullenburger, most famously known as Sully, calmly glided the powerless jetliner and its 155 passengers towards Manhattan's River Hudson and it crash landed in the water with minimal injuries - right in the center of the city! Was this on the home page of The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN's websites within seconds of the plane touching down...NOPE. This event was shared for anyone outside of a 5 mile radius via Twitter! Actually, it wasn't for another 45 to 90 minutes that all of the major news media outlets had coverage of this amazing and heroic event.

Twitter has become the primary platform for over 40% of Americans that consume their news from online resources. Almost 77% of Americans identified as Millennials and Generation Z consume their breaking news from social media platforms (either aggregated from other sources or posted directly). So why are so many public relations professionals not dedicating more time to using social media to reach their target audience? Simple put, its because they don't know how. Sure they know how to post, share, comment and create content, how is not an issue. Its the when, where and who that can make using social media a challenge. I will demystify some of the aspects of using social media effectively for public relations in the tips below.

Using Social Media for Public Relations

Social media can help public relations professionals meet their goals, by connecting with and learning from their target audience first hand. Some of the most common ways public relations teams use social media include:

  1. Identifying audience influencers - An influencer is far more effective than a paid spokesperson. All an influencer has to do is briefly mention or be associated with your brand, this will automatically give your brand a third-party voice that already has the trust of your audience. The reason why influencers are so powerful is because an influencer is a genuine member of the audience they promote within. This is what separates influencers from spokes people; although both are compensated for their services in some way, influencers most likely would have used your product or service without you propositioning them. And the most sought after and successful influencers are very particular about the brands they rep. Social media influencers have massive digital followings that brands can tap into to promote offerings, build relationships and even use to protect reputations. When public relations professionals create relationships between brands and influencers, they're really recruiting additional promotion and defense of their brand.

  2. Quickly identify brand threats - Social listening is nothing new, but social media has made this practice so much easier. Listening to social media gives public relations professionals the power to understand the public's opinion before it turns into a trending topic and a serious issue. They can proactively find and address online threats and possibly prevent a major brand reputation crisis. There are dozens of social listening tools out there to understand what social media users really think. Many are free just to get your feet wet and discover which tools you like best. The public relations world is all about knowing how to tailor your message to your audience; these tools make it easy to understand what they are talking about it, where they are talking and how to communicate with them.

  3. Connect with reputable media outlets - Your audience can actually see other public relations professionals on social media when they address a crisis, but they are mostly working behind the scenes to shape a brand's image and message. When a trending topic blows up and begins its path through social media; journalists often put their ear to social media to see what people are saying. That's your people. Public relations professionals will often join that online discussion in order to influence journalists to present a certain viewpoint, message, or opinion of the situation. PR pros may not always end up seeing the published story they'd like, but they can still use social media as a tool to keep their angle in the public as much as possible.

  4. To swiftly react to negative press - Did your brand get a negative comment somewhere? Anyone on Facebook, Twitter, or even Google+ will find out in seconds if there are more negative comments out there, then this becomes a trend. Social media is one of the first places people look for a brand's reaction to a negative claim and see how soon you responded. A clever tactic is for PR professionals to first use a company account to publish a immediate response, then direct their audience to another platform, typically an independent destination with more information. Social media gives you immediate access to a large audience that is already plugged in. Quick access for little to nothing paid to reach them.

  5. Your big announcements - Word travels fast on Twitter and Reddit, so as a PR professional you better often use the platform to announce awards, product launches, and company updates because, WHY NOT! Its literally free promotions. All your skills will be at use; crafting some captivating text, adding a few conversion links and relevant visual content to capture your audienaudience attention and now you'll reach a much wider audience via social media than traditional forums. And once again, ITS FREE!

Social media is a natural fit for public relations, whether it be for promotions, issue resolution, even customer service support one of many tools businesses can use to protect and promote their reputations is social media. When public relations and marketing teams combine their efforts on these platforms brands often enjoy immediate positive results and build profitable lasting relationships with their audience.


I'm Ehren Muhammad,

Follow me and connect as I help brands grow.

LinkedIn: eMuhammad

IG: @ehrenmuhammad Twitter: @ChiBrother85

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