In Age of Celebrities And Twitter, is PR Obsolete?

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A Rihanna Twitter picture

When a celebrity can break news to the masses with the tap of button, is there still a need for publicists?

Instant gratification has become a staple in today’s digitally charged environment; fans want constant updates from their favorite celebrities and social media is the avenue through which fans get their fix.

Take Kim Kardashian, for example. She frequently uses Twitter to promote her projects – the most recent being her widely anticipated show with one of her sisters “Kourtney and Kim Take Miami” – and oftentimes, her fans (many of them also celebrities) do the work for her. All she has to do is retweet — such as the following example where Kelly Rowland did her bidding.

Kim Kardashian: Yay!!! RT ‪@KELLYROWLAND: Tonight I’m watching Kourtney & Kim Take Miami tonight at 9/8c on E! Be sure to tune in!

While information is more widely accessible and shared by the millisecond, overall, social media has a positive effect on the PR industry, says Natalie Guse, CEO at San Diego-based Majestic Social Media.

Guse believes that while sites such as Twitter are at a celebrity’s disposal to share goings-on, there is more to it than just deciding to create a post and tapping “send.”

“Social media is such a powerful tool, there is a lot of buzz going on and it requires a strategy to be heard and to place the messages and stories in a way that they will be seen,” she says.

According to “How Blogs and Social Media are Changing Public Relations and the Way it is Practiced,” a 2008 study published in the Public Relations Journal, social media enhances what happens in public relations. Social media also complements mainstream media, and vice versa.

“Social media is a way to engage, communicate and socialize with fans. It is the future of marketing and its power is almost infinite,” Guse says.

But are there any drawbacks to celebrities relying too heavily on social media to promote their brand?

“I don’t think that a client has the wherewithal – the who’s, the what’s, the when’s, the where’s and the why’s – to service and to speak to those people who are doing blogs and online (journalism),” says Angelo Ellerbee, owner of New Jersey-based Double XXposure Media Relations Inc. “A publicist would always serve to educate that journalist about what it is that we’re trying to get across to the mass media.”

The act of celebrities choosing to take control of their image via social media can also present a misinformation threat.

“A single tweet can be interpreted as a breakup or publicly stated resentment towards another celebrity,” Majestic Social Media’s Guse says.

With all of the tweets Rihanna has been posting for the past several weeks about her infamous ex Chris Brown — including photos of the two together — one could easily think the two have made amends and are now a couple … again. What exactly did she mean with the following recent tweet?

Rihanna: Never underestimate a man’s ability to make you feel guilty for his mistakes

The study also mentions that blogs and social media have encouraged organizations to respond more quickly to criticism, which has brought about instantaneous communications.

Kardashian Twitter picture

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Rihanna have learned how to effectively use social media to brand themselves, Guse says.

Ellerbee adds Ashton Kutcher to that list, noting his large number of Twitter followers, which now totals to more than 12 million.

“That’s a serious fan base. Your fan base wants to know what you’re doing; they want to be able to communicate with you. So it’s just another extension of media, of PR,” he says.

Since fans seem to enjoy connecting with celebrities on a “personal” level, they react more to personal posts than those that sound like sales pitches, Guse says.

“People get turned off by these tactics and if a celebrity focuses too much on selling.”

As the presence of social media becomes more permanent, this may raise questions regarding the future of PR.

Ellerbee views social media as a true “plus” for the public relations industry, not a loss.

“You have to look at social media as a part of a marriage,” he says. “This is something that you don’t want to lose because it’s going to enrich where you’re coming from and strengthen you where you’re coming from as a publicist.”

PR can now switch from a one-way to a two-way form of communication because of social media, Guse says.

“It will be interactive, and it will be even easier to communicate with fans and celebrities and build that personal relationship that makes fans even more loyal and willing to spread the word about a new record, a new CD, a new movie, etc.”

Crissinda Ponder

Crissinda Ponder, multimedia journalist, is a University of Georgia graduate and native of College Park, Ga. Her work has appeared in several online publications, including Bankrate.com, LikeTheDew.com and Patch.com.

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