Has PR Gone Social?


Public Relations noun plural but usually singular in construction, often attributive.

  • The activity or job of providing information about a particular person or organization to the public, so that people will regard that person or organization in a favorable way
  • The relationship between an organization and the public
  • The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution
  • The degree of understanding and goodwill achieved

First known use of Public Relations: 1807

As the profession’s or practice’s own name suggests, PR is about relating to the public. In and of itself, PR is therefore social it is relating a story from one person to another and relies on what is now known as virality (thanks, Jonah Berger!). These 2014 buzzwords may have the ring of modernity to so many of us, but to PR professionals the concepts have always been at their very core, even if they didn’t have the vocabulary to name them.

In 1807, when the term, public relations, was first knowingly used, there were just a few means that publicists had available to them in order to relate a concept or product to the public and they were predominantly all in print. With the advent of broadcast media, the profession adapted to incorporate cinematic newsreels, television, radio and so forth. And, more recently, PR has been quick to integrate the developments stemming stemmed from the digital revolution internet, email, social media and so forth into its umbrella of communication and practice.

“The landscape has completely changed thanks to technology developments, which collectively have generated endless mediums and outlets that are appropriate for a client,” says Judith King, founder of New York agency King + Co. “The ability to reach more people is profoundly important to PR. So whilst it used to be that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Oprah were all that mattered, the media is now one million times larger, wider, expansive, vast, comprehensive, exhaustive than it ever was before and niche blogs potentially have as much reach as the traditional media.”

Furthermore, we live in a world where life itself has gone social. Today, everyone is literally within reach of one another (and the six degrees of separation theory has consequentially probably down-scaled to three). The impact of this is enormous for PR professionals for whom word of mouth is key to their success. However, as we asserted before, it always has been. The scope to achieve virality, however, has become seemingly limitless.

What’s more, social media does not exist in isolation. Appearance in (or on) more traditional media channels, such as magazines and news programs, remain important to a comprehensive PR strategy that has added digital realms to the mix. What’s more, traditional mediums also communicate with readers, listeners and viewers within the social hemisphere (as do their writers, hosts and personalities) and so to eliminate “old-school” media or deny their importance would not only bar entry into print and broadcast channels but so too into the social arenas they infiltrate.

Has PR gone social? In our opinion, it always has been.

Image: Niuton May / Flickr

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