Is Social Media The Same as PR?

Since the arrival and prominent rise of Social Media, businesses and agencies alike have struggled to fully understand where it should fit into their overall strategy.

52% of Public Relation professionals admit that journalists are less likely to contact them to fact check since the emergence of social media. There is no doubt that it’s has been a game-changer.

Traditional PR has always been about creating and maintaining relevant relationships, but should Social Media just be seen as a subset of PR or a completely separate entity?Firstly, let’s ask our search engine overlord of knowledge, Google, what it thinks on the matter:

Google’s answer card describes PR as “the way organisations, companies and individuals communicate with the public and the media”.

It defines Social Media as “websites or applications that enable users to create or share content or to participate in social networking”.

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    From these definitions it would seem that Social Media is indeed a mere modern tool for companies and brands to conduct traditional PR.

However, if you consider the sheer instantaneous speed in which businesses can interact and engage with their audience on Social Media and the fact that a simple conversation on Twitter can become headline news within the hour, then surely distinctions must be drawn?

With Social Media, businesses can utilise tools to jump into online conversations between users and answer pertinent queries thrown at them by customers.

Whether it’s solving problems or rewarding advocates of your brand, Social Media takes place in real-time… all the time.

PR, on the other hand, happens at a more traditional pace where strategies, launches and press releases are more considered and time consuming, yet arguably more effective.

Whereas Social Media campaigns may involve outreach to key influencers in a certain industry through mediums such as Twitter and Facebook messages or email, PR professionals should already have deep relationships with news and media outlets.

PR frames and controls the message that they wish to highlight, whereas Social Media must embrace the conversation and influence how consumers think of them wherever and whenever it takes place.

Imagine that your brand is the politician trying to get his key manifesto pledges (your message) over to his audience in a TV studio.

PR picks and chooses his interviewer, the questions they’re asked and the makeup of the live crowd.

Social Media, on the other hand, will debate, engage and solve consumer questions from whomever may ask and win the respect of the audience whilst doing so.

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    When you consider that 81% of PR professionals admit that they can’t do their job without Social Media, then it’s clear that PR and Social go hand in hand.

A huge similarity between the two is the emphasis on customer service and support. PR people are well versed in crisis management and often have strategies in place for such eventualities.

Social Media Managers are having to learn a thing or two from PR pros in this respect.

Due to the immediacy of platforms such as Twitter, many brands have committed PR disasters over the relatively few years Social Media platforms have been around.

Ultimately, the greatest difference is that Social Media will only ever take place online whereas PR encompasses offline as well.

A devoted PR team is crucial for big brands but for smaller companies looking to have a voice, a strong social media presence can often suffice.

Though they can overlap in many ways, there are too many differences and advantages of each not to include one or the other in your overall strategy.


  • The rise of Social Media has drastically changed the face of PR
  • Both focus on creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with the media and consumers alike
  • Social Media is immediate and conversational whereas PR is more planned and one-way
  • Modern PR needs Social Media
  • All big brands should have integrated PR and Social Media teams, working together

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