Valentini, Chiara (2015). Is using social media “good” for the public relations profession? A critical reflection. Public Relations Review 41(2), 170-177.

Summary

This article critically reviews major public relations work on social media to explain why social media has been considered a positive phenomenon for public relations profession.

The main argument presented is that social media does not always represent opportunities for individuals and organizations, but can sometimes pose risks and contribute to failures in social relations. Examples of misuse include the impact of ghost-writing on public trust on organizations, and risks from an interpersonal relationship point of view derived by the use of digital technologies are presented and discussed. The author also argues that despite the fact that different merits and opportunities in the use of social media for public relations have been emphasized; the empirical evidence is mostly case-dependent and limited to the realm of understanding current practice with limited theorizing. Social media measurement and effects on public behaviors are still underdeveloped, so actual benefits for organizations and for publics are yet to be proven.

Method

This article reviews published research to addresses two main questions: Why is public relations research so enthusiastic about social media? Does the prominence of social media really offer concrete benefits to the public relations profession as well as the organizations and publics that it serves? These questions are answered through a critical exploration and discussion of three major themes: 1) the perceived value of social media for public relations; 2) the alleged benefits of social media for publics and for organizations; and 3) the possible implications of current social media use for public relations.

Key Findings

  • The positive view of social media held by the majority of public relations scholars is grounded on the profession’s need to reconcile the two sides of public relations identity—the rhetorical, i.e. content crafting and messaging, storytelling, and framing communications, and the relational, i.e. helping an organization to build and maintain mutual and beneficial relationships with its publics, ones.
  • By understanding better how technologies are changing public behaviors, professionals will be able to assess the nature of their social media actions so as to be able to provide ethical, responsible advice to their organizations.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should 1) avoid swamping the online environment with organizational content that may not be relevant for publics; 2) be more selective and thus more environmentally responsible for what, when and how social media should be used; 3) carefully reflect on the consequences and effects of their direct and indirect social media actions both for publics and society at large.

Location of Article

This article is available for purchase at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.11.009

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