Engaging publics on social media is tricky. While digital platforms allow organizations to instantly reach large audiences, many fail to communicate efficiently. This communication is crucial for public relations practitioners to build relationships with audiences. Let me explain why.
In April 2016, I conducted a study on Starbucks’ use of dialogues in online customer interactions. Through this research, I came across the work of public relations theorist and retired professor of communication at the University of Maryland James Grunig. His book, “Managing Public Relations” demonstrated that public relations is shifting from a one-way to a two-way communication model, where direct advertising strategies would be replaced by more interactive one-on-one communications between organizations and its publics.
Grunig said he believed that many public relations practitioners fail to communicate online because they approach social media as they approached the old media.
“They think of message generation and media placement as the principal outcome of public relations without thinking of the publics that are most strategic for the organization, the problems these publics experience and the nature of the relationship an organization should have with publics,” said Grunig.
There are many benefits to an open dialogue between public relations professionals and their client’s publics, though.
First and foremost, dialogue is the purest form of human interaction. It is a reciprocal activity that promotes mutual understanding and respect, which are essential for communication.
Second, dialogue is an essential listening tool. Gathering knowledge about behaviors and communication habits enables organizations to better understand their audience, and consequently achieve their communication goals.
Lastly, dialogue is a proactive process that promotes more interactivity, builds stronger brand equity and prevents potential conflicts.
Social media represents a growing challenge for public relations practitioners. Nevertheless, navigating this fast-growing environment and allocating the necessary resources to online interactions will improve organizations’ communication with its publics in the long run.
Jacques Foul recently obtained a master’s degree in strategic communication at American University, in Washington D.C. He currently works as a community manager for v2com-newswire to connect architects, designers and the media. Feel free to learn more about him on his website, connect on LinkedIn and Twitter or shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.