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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is There Too Much Emphasis on Social Media?

While declaring my public relations major at the end of my freshman year, I had no idea the amount of focus my classes would put on social media. To me social networking sites and public relations had no connection to one another, and I never thought that I would be taking a class that devoted half of the semester to discussing the latter. These sites were used by my friends to exchange photographs of vacations and to make plans for the weekend ahead.

Things have changed in the world of strategic communications and with these changes also comes the adjustment of curriculum at any school of journalism. Social networking sites have now become critical tools in many public relations and advertising campaigns and I do agree that it is important to educate future professionals about their benefits.

With that being said, I majored in PR because I wanted a profession that allowed me to interact face to face with new people every day. I wanted to learn how to create strong personal relationships with others and use those relationships to benefit my client. Sitting in my classes I often fear my future will consist of me wearing footed pajamas tweeting about my client. I want real relationships not just new Facebook friends.

While I find the topic of social media interesting and do see its benefits, I feel that traditional PR and the importance of building a social network offline are oftentimes neglected. Traditional PR is still extremely important if businesses want to succeed. In order to create awareness about a client, it is a necessary for PR professionals to come up with creative angles that will attract the media. The best way to know what the media likes or what a certain reporter would be interested in is by getting to know them. I found an interesting article from that discussed how Vanity Fair’s editor Michael Wolff does not respond to pitches unless it is from a friend or someone who has made the effort to get to know him. If you are just pitching to him along with the rest of your contacts list, your idea will go right in the trash. Sure this sounds discouraging however I feel it is part of the job.

We can’t just create Facebook pages and Tweet about upcoming products hoping that someone will notice. Traditional PR is still needed to come up with captivating ideas and personal relationships are what will get those ideas coverage. I’m not denying the power of social media but I can’t help but wonder if it is sometimes overemphasized in today’s classrooms.

Adrian Pansch
University of Minnesota
Jour 3279
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