Social Media go Mainstream? Euprera spring symposium in Gent (Belgium)

This the title of Euprera’s Spring Symposium in Gent (Belgium) last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A well organised and intelligently structured experience for those who were there, yours truly included.

Some major takeaways?

The most stimulating came from Betteke Van Rule: never has public relations been more public! she said from the floor.

Which led me to think that, yes!, public relations is definitely about relationships with publics, as many of us have always claimed.

But it also very true that our discipline has never been so public….

Then, reflecting on the contents of the three day discussion, I would have added a question mark to the title.

This, not to imply that social media have not become mainstream (they certainly have…. in many ways they have even ‘institutionalized’..) but to caution that both online and mainstream media are only channels, while social media is also an environment.

Specifically related to the thorough discussion led by an excellent and very lively Philip Young, on whether social media should be taught separately from media relations, being stimulated by many of the voiced opinions, I came to the personal conclusion that each educator has the prime responsibility (no matter what subjects she/he teaches, philosophy or mathematics) to enable and facilitate students in developing a critical mind.

A critical mind implies understanding how one forms opinions and how information sources, no matter where they come from, must be critically filtered. And there is no discipline I can think of who can do this better than public relations when integrated with social media analysis.

Therefore, at least from this perspective, social media should be integrally explained in any introductory course as an increasing amount of opinions are today being formed in that environment.

This does not exclude that social media are important in all other public relations courses including of course media relations.

The bottom line is that it should be integrated in all courses of a discipline which purports to prepare students to embrace a profession which, in my view, is the most powerful and (almost always) opaque force which leads to the formation of individual opinions in today’s society.
Now, if that implies -as most public, private and social organizations seem to believe- that there is still today a significant correlation between opinions and behaviours…. I am afraid that they better think twice and reflect on their own personal opinions and behaviours of the last 24 hours.

But this is another question that possibly merits the title for Euprera’s next Spring Symposium.

Here are other relevant bites from the discussion:

°is the social web only a by-pass to get around mainstream media, or can it be itself an artery for organizational communication in today’s network society? (Daniel Heine)

°adopting social media the wrong way does more harm than not using it at all (Bart Rousseau)…sure.. the whole Symposium was a treasure of stimuli towards a better and more aware way forward for the adoption of social media.

From ‘being where your stakeholders hang out’ to ‘social media is today’s principal environment in which reputations are created and destroyed’, to ‘twitter is a space where you can listen’, to ‘moving from the concept of share of voice to that of share of conversation’ (Neville Hobson).

Much attention to Liz Bridgen’s study on emotional labour and personal branding in social media (the ‘selling of me’, a twenty first century sophistication of the BBC’s 20022 century of self?, has ‘self’ become a commodity?).

On this, it was (at least for me) surprising to listen to one of the young winners of the social media award declare with no apparent shyness that he created his blog to increase his search engine optimization performance… today’s hit parade?

A very clear description of the network society, the value network concept and how individual roles are more defined by the network than by the specific content, by Sven Hamrefors and a stunning and highly valuable presentation by Bruno Amaral on values and public relations while I much appreciated Holger Sieverts call for more creativity in the profession.

You can see presentations here. Enjoy.

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5 Replies to “Social Media go Mainstream? Euprera spring symposium in Gent (Belgium)

  1. Thank you for mentioning my paper; I really value your comments.

    Has social media gone mainstream? Many of the platforms certainly have, but I think that intelligent (and ethical) organisational use of social media is still not ‘mainstream’ – yet.

  2. Professor, thank you for the mention on your post, I couldn’t ask for a better encouragement.

    To try to answer your question on if social media as gone mainstream, I have to say that I sometimes find the term confusing. It is used to mean tapping into existing online social networks such as facebook, blogs, forums and wikis and also as a way to refer to the use of online communication instruments. So, on one hand social media means to find and participate in the dialogue, while on the other it means to use instruments of online communications to broadcast information hoping to build relationships.

    I agree that the use of social media instruments as in fact gone mainstream and is not always put to the best use. As Mark Phillimore showed, there is still a lot that can be done in regards to the social media dialogue, using it to know why a brand’s message is or is not working and how to optimize communication.

  3. Paul, this is one hell of a bright comment!
    If you move your cursor here to the upper right part of this blog you will find a rich and revealing pdf which captures some two years of prc discussions about your query…

    I have often asked myself whether tailoring was not a more satisfactory profession for me, given that the other two you mention are beyond my wildest dreamed relationship skills and competencies…. and you?

    cheers

  4. “…public relations is definitely about relationships with publics”… but so is hairdressing, tailoring and prostitution, and much more. Actually, public relations is about something deeper. We need to get at that specificity if we are to be taken seriously as a profession.

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