Taking a public relations course as a communication studies student is slightly overwhelming. Everything I have learned up to this point about social media marketing and public relations strategies has been through my personal ventures into social networks and observance of what my employers do to achieve success utilizing social media marketing and social media PR campaigns. My communication background has been built upon theories and in most cases has been applied to explore face-to-face communication in a variety of contexts and settings. However, the current online public relations management course I am taking at IUPUI has already been eye-opening as to how social media can be used professionally whether that be for an individual’s personal use, or for a company’s professional use and for a variety of reasons (marketing, branding, etc.). When I did some preliminary background research on Edelman needless to say I was amazed. To think that he could foresee how social media and computer-mediated communication could shape and begin to drive the economy is astounding. After scrolling through his presentation When All Media Is Social: Navigating the Future of Communications, I had many reactions and questions. Before diving into my inquiries, let me begin by exploring what was presented in his slides.
Edelman began his presentation with a video:
The point of this clip was to explore a historic, economical debate: Hayek vs. Keynes. If, like me, you are not familiar with these men, or their economic beliefs there is a great article that breaks down their views here. Essentially, they disagreed over “causes and cures to the business cycle,” (Doherty, 2012). This video seemed to serve a few different purposes. One being that it illustrated social media in an interactive way. Edelman used his predictions about the future boom of social media and weaved it into is presentation in an effective way, essentially his audience knew when watching that he believed whole heartily in his views. Secondly, it provided a wonderful exemplar to his audience about when and how they too could weave social media into their presentations making the content more creative, more interesting and more captivating to their audience(s). Lastly, it showed his personality. This is a hilarious clip, however it is educational as well. Perhaps Edelman not only wanted to teach his audience something, but he wanted them to enjoy learning his lesson. Regardless as to the motive for this particular clip’s selection, this was a great way for Edelman to begin his conversation and set the pace for his exploration into social media. Before getting to Edelman’s media predictions, I feel it is essential to analyze his slide regarding distrust in institutions.
For me, this slide set the tone for how I framed my reaction to Edelman’s exploration of the following Five Media Trends to Watch. By pointing out how these various institutions have deceived or misguided the general public, Edelman is creating evidence to use later as to why people will be turning to social media. If you cannot trust the government and you cannot trust business, who can you trust? Furthermore, why has this distrust been created? How did these situations get as far as they got without some type of check or balance on individuals and/or businesses in positions of power? Enter the Five Media Trends to Watch:
New Social Giants are Emerging. This could not be more true both when Edelman presented this information as well as today. We are constantly interacting through social networks. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and those are only a few of the vast channels we now have literally at our fingertips. These ‘giants’ have made it possible for us to access them anywhere, as well as we have driven markets in companies such as Apple, Amazon and Windows (to name a few) to create products that ensure we can tap into these ‘giants’ from any place at any time. From this we see individuals feeling the need to constantly be up-to-date with the lastest breaking news, constantly trying to interact with others, and being able to interact with individuals, companies and causes all over the world through the clip of a mouse or tap on a touchscreen. Having these new ‘giants’ at our fingertips has completed changed the business model. Content now has to be produced under the assumption that any person from any place could be exposed to it at any time, undoubtedly putting pressure onto content makers as to how they will create an artifact that all people will be able to respond positively to after crossing paths with it. Furthermore, additional pressure is layered top of that depending on the goal of the content maker. Do you want to create content that people are able to spend more time looking at and have a positive experience while observing it? Or, do you want to create content that people feel compelled to share, retweet or post, thus increasing the number of people who cross paths with the content? It would seem content is much harder to create for businesses on social media accounts because of the vague understanding of exactly who the audience now becomes.
Paid Media Now Amplifies Social. It’s true, paid advertisements are everywhere. Which on one hand would seem positive, now more people can be exposed to more advertisements potentially on all social websites, presumably leading to higher consumption of information. However, does this bombarding of advertisements turn the consumer off and prohibit any consumption from taking place? If a consumer sees an ad every time they log onto a social media website, does this create a desensitized individual that learns to ignore all advertisements? I do not think I am qualified or have the information I need to answer this question, however I feel both options could be true. Depending on how the content is both created and presented, I would think it may or may not have the ability to affect the monetary success a business will gain from advertising on the social network. What I do know however, is that businesses now have to carefully consider how they will distribute their content to social giants and which social giants they want to distribute to. This will require companies familiarize themselves with audiences for all accounts and be able to ensure that their content is appropriate in regard to that audience.
Search is Morphing with Social. Now, when search engines are used, they render individual names and social links that that individual as well as search results. This is one of Edelman’s five trends that I struggled to make the most sense of. I wondered if this point was directed towards high level business professionals. It would seem advantageous that business professionals establish a personal brand for themselves that will be marketable enough that their social media can be pulled as a hit when a search engine is used when appropriate. Or, my second thought was that maybe this is letting businesses know that now the consumers can be the experts. If individuals have a wonderful or horrible experience with any aspect of their interaction, they are able to take it to the net. Therefore everyday individuals become credible sources as to if St. Elmo’s has great or not so great service, if Nordstrom’s online return policy is easy breezy or a royal pain, so on and so forth. There are countless ways the everyday individual now has the potential to shape and alter future business and their advice is just a clip or tap away.
Amplification Now Trumps Circulation. This points placed the focus on the individual and what we want from our businesses. For instance, we want to be able to interact with business professionals, news stations, and/or sports teams. We want information to be a conversation and no longer told to us as we sit in front of our television or radio. This comes back to Edelman’s previous slide regarding the distrust in organizations. Consumers want to be able to ask questions of our governments, banks and policy makers (again, just to name a few!) and get answers that help us understand exactly what is taking place and why certain decisions are being made. It would seem that this has been the unconscious proposed solution to finding a check and balance system that keeps the public informed. We now have social network channels that allow us to go straight to the information and get the answers we need to understand and determine our next move. It would seem the social network has take some of the power from top-down communication and created a system where bottom-up communication can take place and potentially affect who is sitting at the top.
Visual Storytelling is in Renaissance. This was the easiest and shortest point for me to understand. We value interaction. We want things to be interesting, engaging and appealing.
Edelman continued on with Three Ways Forward for PR:
1. Show and Tell
2. Infographic on Trust in Mobility
3. Be Rational and Emotional
And wrapped up his presentation with 4 Communication Musts:
2. Understanding Data
3. Emotional Intelligence
4. Visual Storytelling
This was an incredibly interesting article for me to both read and reflect on. After reading and posting on predictions for social media use in 2013, it was interesting to compare what Edelman predicted in the past. I have asked many questions and posed many things to consider and I welcome all other questions, points to consider and even challenges as to why I questioned something as I did. Edelman was a visionary and created an amazing base of knowledge for both understanding and using Public Relations.