Influence in numbers

Like every other student in the country studying PR, I have an interest in it’s role within the changing media landscape. In order for Public Relations to evolve with it, practitioners need to consider influence as a dominant player when it comes to adapting.

As consumers become more media savvy, the media is becoming more fragmented. Consumers have the power to be smarter due to the internet. The Cluetrain Manifesto notes “there are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.” Meaning, people don’t talk to other people physically so much anymore because social media conversation has partially replaced the convention of physically conversing. Consumers now communicate via their online networks. Everything is stored online thus making it more powerful. It is fuelled by us and used heavily by us.

Due to this, public opinion matters more now than ever. In a world of TripAdvisor, instead of placing trust into the hands of corporations, people are now turning to their more intimate network circles for recommendations and advice.

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Perhaps as a direct result of this, Edelman have set up a Trust Barometer which informs us which businesses the public trust most which is useful when it comes to re-engineering trusting relationships.

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20 years ago, Edelman’s Trust Barometer wouldn’t have been necessary as there was just one major channel of influence within mass media. Now we have the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to name but a few in a world of instant gratification. This is likely to mean that as a result of media fragmentation, we could have hundreds of influencers instead of the traditional structure of a sole authoritative influencer.

Mass media has the potential to reach millions of people. However, just because something is seen on prime time TV, it doesn’t mean we will see a change in attitudes or behaviours.

This is where the key word ‘influence’ comes in. As PR practitioners, we should be targeting online communities for influencers. In order to rebuild customer relationships with businesses we need to first figure out who their influencers are. Within this process we will begin to understand the role of PR people as gatekeepers. 

“We are living through a radical transformation of our communications environment.” – John Naughton 2012.

According to David Manning White, everybody working within communications is classed as a gatekeeper. PR practitioners are gatekeepers, we have the duty to shape messages and pass them on to an audience or organisation. In the future, we may use influencers to pass on these messages in order to reach our media savvy consumers.

Conventional media is not dominant anymore, people are now desperate to find alternative potential influencers and these influencers will become a dominant player in the digital media landscape due to media fragmentation.

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