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  • Writer's pictureCentriq PR

Has social media killed PR?

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Article by Jacqueline Arnold @ TwentyTwo13 (5 June 2023)

The song ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ was released in 1979.

The Buggles’ song refers to the advent of television, specifically music videos, and its impact on radio.

Modern music videos came into existence when the 24-hour music television channel MTV launched in 1981, and The Buggles’ song was the first video on air.

Duran Duran’s music videos – ‘Rio’, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, and ‘Girls On Film’ – drove fans into a frenzy. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and ‘Beat It’ videos and Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ were quickly emblazoned on our minds.

But did this mean that fewer people bought records and tickets to concerts? The opposite occurred as the music videos drew fans closer to the artists and boosted their popularity.

Fast forward 40 years to the 2020s and the world of social media.

There seems to be a school of thought that social media and influencers can replace public relations (PR), but I beg to differ. Some have become obsessed with the number of likes, shares, and followers on these platforms.

These measurements are superficial and highly misleading. Genuine engagement and connections with stakeholders are via PR with the human touch. It’s about the number of lives a brand touches and its positive impact.

There’s an immense difference between an Influencer and a Key Opinion Leader (KOL), but many may be unaware.

In the 90s and early 2000s, being endorsed by a KOL was a big thing for a brand. To begin with, the KOL didn’t accept any payment or gratuity for their opinions or reviews. KOLs gave honest opinions, and many would also offer comparisons, in-depth analysis and insights.

KOLs were considered earned media and were under the purview of PR.

Fast forward to recent times, when everyone with a smartphone considers themselves ‘media’. We have a large number of influencers who are active on social media channels like Instagram, YouTube or TikTok.

Their content is predominantly visual (they take great photos) with minimal copy. Their posts are in short content format and may pass your glance for just a few fleeting seconds. Not much reading is required.

Influencers are paid and fall under advertising (please stop including influencers in the PR budget).

I recently conducted a poll on my LinkedIn account and was pleasantly surprised that 90 per cent of the respondents acknowledged that there is a difference between KOLs and influencers.

Research has shown that the touch of a mother or a familiar adult or sibling helps ill and preterm infants cope with the many painful procedures they receive as part of their routine care in neonatal intensive care units.

Even in advanced medicine, there is no substitute for the human touch.

The advent of social media makes the PR role even more critical.

PR is the human touch that humanises an organisation and gives a brand identity.

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