Wright, Donald K. & Hinson, Michelle, Drifka. (2011, Summer). A three-year longitudinal analysis of social and emerging media use in public relations practice. Public Relations Journal, 5(2), 1-32.

Although others have examined the impact new communications media are having on public relations, the annual Wright & Hinson surveys represent one of the few attempts to study how public relations practitioners actually are using these emerging media. The three-year trend study of public relations practitioners reported in this article provides one of the most extensive examinations of how social media are being implemented in public relations practice. With annually updated reports on how social and other emerging media are being used in public relations, many have called this research the best indicator of how social media and other new technologies are impacting public relations practice. The study reported in this article asks public relations practitioners how important a variety of new communications media are in public relations practice and then asks them how important these new media should be. Results from the 2011 survey are compared with benchmarks established in previous years. These studies have found that the impact of social media and other new technologies to have increased each year. This research examines blogs, social networks (such as Facebook and Linkedin), micro-blogs (such as Twitter), video sharing sites (such as YouTube), podcasts, message boards, and search engine marketing in addition to traditional mass media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.

What it Means
For more than a decade public relations practitioners have had the ability to communicate through a variety of social and other emerging media. This research project compares and contrasts the thoughts and opinions of a large sample of public relations practitioners about the use of these new media.

Results are based on responses to three different online surveys conducted with PRSA members, IPR donors, and other groups of practitioners. Usable responses over the three years totaled 1,616 (n=574 in 2009, n=563 in 2010, and n=479 in 2011).

Key Findings
1.) The use of social media has continued to increase in public relations each year since 2009.
2.) Social networking site Facebook was found to be the most important new communications media for public relations messages in 2010 and 2011 replacing search engine marketing that held this distinction in 2009.
3.) Micro-blogging site Twitter was the next most used new media site.
4.) The current use of new communications media doesn’t come close to matching how important public relations practitioners say these new communications vehicles should be.
5.) The study’s most statistically significant demographic differences were those based upon age. Younger respondents were considerably more likely than older ones to not only advocate greater use of social media in public relations but also to use social media and other internet-based technologies in their daily searches for news and information.

How to Use
This study shows how new media use in public relations practice has changed each year since 2009.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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