Theimpact of social media on public relation campaigns in thehospitality industry
Organizationsare continually adopted strategies with objective of shieldingthemselves from the growing competition, but the majority of theseorganizations do not have empirical prove of whether their strategieswill help them grow and become competitive. Public relation is acritical tool that is used by the organizations to spread or shareinformation with other organizations of individuals. This may includean individual or an organization getting exposure to their targetaudience using topics of interest to members of the public and othernews items that do not necessarily call for direct payment (Seitel3). Many organizations in the hospitality sector have been usingpublic relations to enhance their brand image, but unfortunately,most of them still use the traditional methods to communicate theirpublic relations content (such as the public release), which haslimited their competitiveness. To fix this challenge, hospitalityorganizations should be encouraged to use the social media sites(such as Twitter and Facebook) to increase their presence in themarket, build their respective brands, and reach their audiencesfaster.
Althoughtechnology has been applied in technology for several decades, itsapplication in public relations started in the recent past. The useof technology based channels to make public releases began in thelate 1990s, but the specific application of the social media forpublic relation purposes can be dated back to 2000s (Swallow 1). Thefirst online press releases were made in the 1990s using differentplatforms, such as PRNewswire’s MultiVu multimedia release and(MMR) Business Wire’s Smart (Swallow 1). The use of onlineplatforms to release news reduced reliance on older methods, such asemail and fax. In the year 2002, Friendster developed the firstsocial media site, which paved the way for the proliferation ofonline-based platforms on which people could interact. Initial socialmedia sites had a limited functionality, but they have now beenimproved to serve different functions, including the issue of thepress release. Organizations have continued to maximize the use ofsocial media sites and currently a few organizations are able to makeregular news releases and ensure that all PR campaigns have somesocial media elements.
Investorsin the hospitality industry have been convinced that public relationsare among the key factors that can help them increase their marketshares and build loyalty with their clients. Although this may betrue to some extent, the continued use of the traditional methods(such as the television, magazines, and radios) to build publicrelations in the sector has limited the capacity of theseorganizations to realize the anticipated benefits. Studies have shownthat the owners or the managers of the conventional media houses takecontrol of the public campaign content and may present it to theaudience in a manner that was not intended by the hospitality firm(KnowThis LLC 1). For example, Errol County Club made a PR campaignto show how it partnered with the city police docket to increasesecurity for clients. However, the newspapers articles that followedshowed the pictures and contained stories of the officers wereunderpaid, which sent a negative publicity (Mcbreen 1). This confirmsthat the hospitality firms lose the control of their public relationscampaign to the managers of the media, which creates the need for achannel that will give the firms more control and the ability to sendthe PR content in their own version.
Oneof the key challenges that the hospitality firms using traditionalmethods of advancing their PR campaigns is the lack of control of thecontent and inability to track the impact of the campaign. Developersof the social media sites have addressed these challenges indifferent ways. First, it is now possible to keep track of traffic ona given site and reviews of a given content with the help of theGoogle Analytics (Madlem 2). This Google tool helps organizations seethe PR hits that drove their audience to particular websites and theamount of time they spent reading the PR content. The informationobtained from the Google Analytics tool can help hospitality firmsdetermine which PR contents are working, which can in turn help themshape and refine their PR campaigns accordingly. This implies thatsocial media, not only gives the hospitality firm managers controlover their PR content, but also the ability to change it along theway in order to ensure that it pleases the targeted audience.
Thepublic relations contents that are communicated through the socialmedial reach more people within a short time. Investors in thehospitality industry should borrow this notion and divest from thetraditional channels and invest in social media whenever they need tomake their public release. It is estimated that about 3.17 billionpeople use the internet in the world, which increase chances forreaching more people when one makes a public release online than whenusing conventional methods of communication that are limited in termsof geographical coverage (Statista 1). Most importantly, social mediahas a sharing function that cannot be found in any of the traditionalmethods. This function allows users of the social sites to share thePR content with their peers, who make the work of a hospitalityorganization easier since its followers play a critical role indistributing the press release to other site users. This not onlyincreases the coverage, but also the speed at which the PR contentreaches the target audience.
Someopponents of the use of social media to carry out a PR campaign holdthat social media limit physical relations. These opponents forgetthat both the social media and public relations are based on theprinciples of creating and fostering human relations (Swallow 2). Theonly thing that social media does is to bridge the geographical gapand help people establish relationships in the virtual world. Studieshave shown that 20 % out of the total time that PR employees spend onsocial media sites is used to build the brand image and makeoutreach, while the rest of the time (80 %) is used to communicateand socialize with other social site users, such as bloggers,journalists who use the social media, and other users of the socialmedia who are perceived to have the capacity to influence the brandimage (Swallow 1). This confirms that the use of technology,especially the social media to carryout PR campaigns does noteliminate the aspect of socialization and interaction that is mostneeded in PR. The social media provides an alternative and atechnology-based platform for organizations to socialize and interactwith their targeted audiences. In addition, social media facilitatesmore engagement between the organization and its target audiencesince the two parties can communicate with each other and receivefeedback, which is impossible with traditional methods ofcommunication.
SomePR experts hold that conventional means of communication (such as TVand newspapers) are equally or even more effective than the socialmedia in terms of locating the target audience and creating value forclients (Swallow 3). However, current trends show that many people(about 40 % of the global population are continuously relying on theinternet-based platform as sources of information (Live Statistics1). This makes it easier to search and locate the target demographicgroups on social media platforms. Others have criticized the socialmedia as a tool for PR campaigns by stating that it is more of alistening than a reporting tool. This means that organizationsreceive tens or even hundreds of audience reviews, some of which arenegative, for PR content that the firm posts on social media sites.Therefore, the organization listens more from its audiences than itcommunicates to them. This group of experts believes that socialmedia helps organizations build valuable, but highly perishable trustwith the target audience (Swallow 1). However, this group ofopponents forgets that being a communication tool helps social mediacreate relationships with the audience, which is the basis of PR.
Themajority of organizations operating in the hospitality sector stilluse traditional methods to share their PR campaign content usingtraditional methods of communication, which denies them theopportunity to enjoy the benefits of social media-based PR.Traditional methods of communication are less effective and reducethe control of organizations over the PR content. Hospitality firmscan overcome these challenges by using social media to interact andshare their PR content with other users of these sites. Social mediaallow organizations to track the effectiveness of their PR campaign,increase coverage, and enhance visibility. Some of thecounter-arguments (such as a reduction in the significance of thehuman factor) are quite insignificant compared to numerous benefitsthat organizations can enjoy by adopting the social media as theirmain tool to drive their PR campaigns. In overall, the use of socialmedia for PR is more effective than the use of traditional methods ofcommunication, which means that the hospitality organizations shouldshift from conventional methods to social media.
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