After working non stop over the Easter holidays, I have received my mark back from the 2012 March CIPR Diploma Critical Reasoning Test and am so pleased to have gained a Distinction! One question I was given a merit and the other a distinction, so I’ve decided to post my answer to this one.
Question 4: Argue whether or not the advent of social media can assist public relations to act as a force for good in modern society.
Feedback: There is an excellent critical analysis of the different definitions of social media, drawing on a range of sources to provide contrasting perspectives. The inclusion of the ‘conversation prism’ model and subsequent discussion is also very good. This answer demonstrates an outstanding grasp of the relevant PR theories and these are discussed clearly in relation to social media. For example, the critical analysis of Shannon and Weaver’s linear communications model and Grunig’s Excellence Theory is of a very high standard. There is an excellent analysis of how social media has altered PR’s control of messages and there is a high level of critical analysis of the need for ethics and transparent conduct in online conversations.
Areas to improve: Although this answer is arguing the case for how social media can assist PR to act as a force for good it would be useful to reflect more on the challenges social media presents PR practitioners, including an analysis of how practitioners might overcome these.
The landscape in which public relations operates has changed radically over recent years. PR practitioners have actively tried to embrace the ever advancing technology which has created endless new communication opportunities to build relationships with audiences on an unprecedented scale (Kaplan and Haenlein: 2010). Many academics are in agreement that the face of public relations (PR) will never be the same, having become more open and collaborative, which has largely been driven by changes to the way that people access their information and the increasing amount of people with access to the Internet across the world. As of 31 December 2011, it is estimated that there are 2,267,233,742 users of the Internet all over the globe (Internet World Stats, 2012) resulting in public relations practitioners now having to think not only strategically, but globally about an organisations communication messages (Grunig, 2009). The fast pace of communication on social media has helped shape a culture of 24/7 news provided by not only journalists, but ‘citizen journalists’ who use the advancements in technology to record and share breaking news with the rest of the world. This is a world where governments have been brought down by their publics, aided by the strength of communication in social media.
In essence, the focus of communication has shifted to having conversations directly with the consumer and building trust through relationships as a result of the discourse between an organisation and these individuals. Simon Clift, ex-CMO of Unilever highlights this progression explaining that “brands are now becoming conversation factors where academics, celebrities, experts and key opinion formers discuss functional, emotional, and more interestingly, social concerns” (Ad Age, 2009).