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Making friends in the Wild West: Singaporean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of working in social media

Fitch, K. (2009) Making friends in the Wild West: Singaporean public relations practitioners’ perceptions of working in social media. PRism, 6 (2).

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This paper explores the impact of social media on public relations by analysing Singapore-based practitioners’ perceptions and attitudes to their work in public relations agencies in an online environment.

Social media offers additional communication channels and the capacity to influence stakeholders outside of more traditional media structures. The research suggests that practitioners, in seeking to promote clients’ interests through the monitoring of online activity and the increasing engagement of social media users, are struggling to develop appropriate practices in an environment where traditional public relations techniques and concepts do not apply.

This research finds that the constant negotiation of conventions and rules, and the determination of what comprises appropriate social media activity and behaviour, results in a blurring of boundaries between public relations and marketing. Significantly, the discourse of friendship, which is increasingly fundamental to social media, conceals the promotional and commercial nature of public relations activity. Relying on online friends and influential bloggers to disseminate information, and producing content and activity designed to engage users, suggests that relationships or ‘friendships’ are not understood in the conventional sense of reciprocity.

The implications for public relations are that working with social media exposes the difficulty of developing strategic campaigns aimed at managing communication between stakeholders where concepts such as friends, and the online personas of influential bloggers, are increasingly credible and alternative sources of information. This analysis suggests public relations is struggling to negotiate the ethical parameters of social media practice and the limitations of traditional understandings of public relations in a social media context.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Media, Communication and Culture
Publisher: Bond University & Massey University
Publisher's Website:
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