By now, the news of the Samsung Galaxy phone that catches fire has proliferated through the masses on a global scale. There have been countless news stories about the phone that catch on fire while charging, and in a variety of other manners. For a quick overview, currently, Samsung has stopped production for all their Galaxy Note 7 phones. This comes after two recalls for two different batteries- an indication of a potentially more systemic or deeper issue. This problem is so widespread that this specific phone is banned from carry on and stored luggage on all global flights including in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the US.
The customer reaction to this event has shown how PR has to change and to adjust its strategies in order to align with new customer social media platforms, constant feedback, and transparency of feedback towards a brand, product, or company.
Definition of PR:
PR, or Public Relations, is defined as “the practice of managing the spread of information between a customer and a company.” A similar definition, announced by the Public Relations Society of America, defines public relations as:
Social Media has changed the capability of traditional PR. Nowadays, there are so many different platforms for customers to provide feedback on a brand. For example, some people may post comments and concerns on Facebook, others on Twitter, and some on Instagram. Because of this, PR has changed dramatically over the last few years. Information is spread not only through traditional methods such as news articles, but also, interactive, immediate platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Tradition PR to Digital PR
The presence of Social Media has expanded traditional PR into Digital PR. This field “aims to bring brands online by creating valuable relationships with brand influencers by offering them optimized digital assets (magnetic content) such as news related content, video, and links that can be used online.” According to Carrie Morgan, Digital PR “combines traditional marketing with content marketing, social media, and search. The presence of social media has transitioned the role of PR to leverage digital sites to influence a brand image to consumers. Furthermore, PR firms must evaluate social media sites in order to understand and control customer feedback.
Changes in Responsibilities
In addition, social media has shifted the responsibilities of traditional PR firms and agents. While previously, PR agents could control the message that was promoted by a company itself, this is no longer the case. This industry and PR professionals must control the online reputation of the company. This means that the responsibilities also include the constant review of tweets, posts, etc about a brand, in order to ensure that the brand stays in positive light. In fact, 70 % of respondents to a survey indicate that social media has added an additional layer of work to their job.
Feedback is everywhere, 24-7-365:
A major impact of social media on PR is that platforms have allowed for customer feedback to be everywhere, and nearly impossible to control. A critical point to note about Social Media is that it never shuts down. Customers have the capability to post, research, “like” brand related content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This makes it virtually impossible to control all the content on social media, particularly negative feedback. Before social media, if a customer complained it was normally on a company website, or to a poor customer service agent on the other line of the phone, with no further knowledge to other customers. Now, this is no longer the case. According to Lucy Wallis, a bad review or negative comment can be retweeted by millions. This shows how critical the jobs of PR professionals have become in order to control these messages on social media platforms. The power has transitioned from the hands of the company, who could better control negative feedback, to the hands of the customer who is able to send out messages to other customers and to the entire internet.
In the case of Samsung Galaxy 7, there are currently 15.4K tweets (as of October 17th) with the hashtag #GalaxyNote7, many of them resembling memes and videos such as these:
Even for the most skilled PR agent, customer feedback like this becomes impossible to deal with and to control. They will have to find ways to spin customer feedback such as these into a more positive light.
Communication is a Two-Way Street:
Social Media allows for customers and brands to communicate with each-other. It is no longer a one-way street, where brands promote their products to customers without feedback from the customers themselves. Because of this bi-directional relationship between customer and companies, customers have begun to feel a more personal connection with a brand. According to a poll in the UK, 36% of respondents used social media platforms to contact a big company. In an article by Jim Doughtery, he implies how a customer has become a “co-creator” of PR related content. Customers relay a customer message through their Facebook posts, Instagram Posts, and Tweets. It is the responsibility of PR firms to try to “interject their point of view into the process.” This means that monitoring and evaluating a brand’s presence on social media sites is a crucial element for the job of PR firms.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is a perfect example of how PR has changed over the years. This company, not only has to develop an internal strategy to help control this publicity issue, with the likes of news release, press releases, etc, but they also have to develop a strategy as to how they can control customer feedback on social media sites. No matter how well this story is contained from a PR standpoint, this story has significant implications for the future of Samsung. This is not a story that will pass over the coming days, but rather the company will have to work towards regaining the trust of their consumers. Social Media and digital platforms will allow this company information to be available to future customers and could have significant implications for the future financial success of the company. This is just one example that shows how social media has changed the field of PR and how companies have to react to these new changes.