Social Media Marketing and Public Relations: Friends or Foes?

Social media: you love it, you hate it, you take or leave it. Nonetheless, you probably have an opinion on it. For those of us in the world of public relations, it has no doubt thrown a sizeable curveball into what we once described as traditional PR. It’s faster, shorter and more direct but with a catch 22 – it has the attention span of a goldfish. So, how do we marry these two frenemies into something meaningful? Barefoot PR took to a Sprout Social Twitter chat (#SproutChat – every Wednesday at 2pm CDT) to answer this question and here’s what we learned.

How do traditional PR and social media marketing differ?

Generally, the consensus on this one was that traditional PR is a person-to-person relationship that is typically more formal, while social media marketing speaks more directly to your audience and has a much lower barrier to entry. PR was also seen as building trust with media over a long period of time to lead to news stories, whereas social media marketing is specific messaging in front of a more specific audience directly using a platform to release content.

Barefoot’s take: Traditional PR is longer term and less immediate and is usually the result of building relationships with media, whereas social media marketing is faster and more direct to consumers.

What are some ways social media has helped the evolution of PR?

Social media has helped PR pros establish a two-way conversation between brands and their audiences that drives engagement and an immediate response to your message. In the past, reaching out to media was part of what slowed down the process of getting your brand’s message out. Now, with the help of social media, the companies we represent have been given a much larger voice that also doubles as being more personable. It has made the ‘gatekeepers’ (aka journalists and media professionals) much more accessible and has allowed networking and building relationships to occur much faster.

Barefoot’s take: PR pros are now forced to be more creative about the avenues in which content is distributed and social media has allowed more engagement with said branding content.

When would you use PR to further your social media campaign? Do you regularly integrate PR and social media, or do you do it on a case-by-case basis?

We saw more of a range of answers to this question – some people said they only integrated PR when they had something truly unique to share and something that would broaden their campaign, while others said they always integrated PR and social media. For those who didn’t fully integrate their campaigns, most said they executed a traditional PR story for content creation and then used social media to share it on different platforms. Those who utilized fully integrated campaigns stressed that keeping messaging consistent is key and that the two should always complement each other but that they don’t see any downside in integrating them.

Barefoot’s take: PR can be used in the traditional sense to spread awareness about a social media campaign through traditional media outlets. These stories should then also be shared on social media to amplify media mentions.

How does PR fit into your content strategy? Do PR managers and social media managers regularly work together?

Each organization is different here – for some companies the role of PR manager and social media managers are separate, while for others they are combined. All of the participants agreed that when possible, the separate roles should work together for the best results.

Barefoot’s take: Because we are a small agency, we work closely together to identify how each strategy supports the other. We also develop content calendars to guide our PR stories and social media posts.

How can PR and social work together to make influencer marketing successful?

Once again, the consensus was that all three should work together in their respective tasks as storytellers to push content further. Many participants said that their PR and social pros worked together to identify social media influencers and determine the best ways to reach out and utilize their platform. Many people also described PR as about storytelling/content creation, social media as content distribution, and influencer marketing as working with brand ambassadors.

Barefoot’s take: PR is helpful in finding appropriate influencers that align with brand messaging and social media is a great tool for influencer outreach and managing their posts.


Overall, we say PR and social are definitely friends not foes. But what about you? How do you think PR and social media management work together? Reach out to us on Twitter @barefootprden to share your thoughts!