A provocative post from Marko giving the hard-bitten “PR professional”‘s view of what social media can mean to an Institution such as ours. So is that what we are? Discuss…
As I see it, there are two kinds of people working in the public relations management milieu of European institutions: the ones that entertain romantic notions about the emancipatory potential of new media such as blogs and social networks and those that recognize Web 2.0 as yet another tool for managing and projecting the favourable image of the institution they work for.
When romantics enthuse about Facebook and Twitter ushering in a new era of participatory democracy, one should not merely smile. Mistaking a pushing of the “like” button on Facebook for expression of political views or even political action can indeed be funny, but it’s also bad for the PR effort.
Mistaking a pushing of the “like” button on Facebook for expression of political views or even political action can indeed be funny, but it’s also bad for the PR effort.
Focus on allegedly emancipatory role of social media too hard, and you can lose sight of their potential as tools for ramming your message home.
As PR professionals we thrive on what the great American sociologist Paul F. Lazarsfeld called the narcotyzing dysfunction of the media – the latter inundate the public with unwieldy amount of information, so that people have no choice but to sit back and consume what is fed to them through various communication channels. Contemporary media landscape with new ways of communicating sprouting up everywhere thus offers a lot of opportunities for very efficient agenda-setting and brand management.
When people let their guard down, the last thing a PR professional should aim to do is to entice them to put it back again or, in other words, to emancipate the public, try to kick their critical faculties into action. This would amount to closing the window of opportunity. When the latter is wide open, courtesy of the media’s narcotyzing dysfunction, PR machinery should be focused on using all channels at its disposal to foster a favourable image and brand of the institution in the public arena.
In order to this in the most efficient way, any PR effort should aim for full-spectrum dominance; the choice of military metaphor is intentional. It’s all about winning hearts and minds, on all fronts: press, TV, radio, the web. This is not to be confused with fostering democratic and pluralistic debate, although PR business is fraught with dangers of such collateral damage putting paid to even the most ingenious campaigns.
The European Parliament has recognized the importance of full-spectrum dominance by also focusing on web communications. In this way it cannot happen that its messages appearing in traditional media could be subverted on the web. The EP’s pages on the web, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace all project an image of the institution and its messages that are more or less consistent with those in the press. No PR professional in the Parliament wants a press article to start off a debate on whether the line taken by the EP is the right one; the same should hold for the EP’s activities on the web.