Social media : two-way conversations vs one-way publicity


Last week, we had our last debate about current issues in the PR industry, and this time, I was arguing alongside my classmates. The motion was “Social media has helped put the public back into public relations: two way conversations and content sharing have replaced one-way publicity driven communications and media manipulation. ” and I was arguing for.

Based on Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four models, I found the motion very interesting and at first, I thought “Of course I’m for, social media has definitely helped put the public back into PR.”

As I researched the subject, I found endless statistics about how social media has changed communications and the way people get information and share content. This infographic, created by the website, was particularly eloquent (click on image for full size) :


My team and I had four main arguments. First of all, social media and the internet in general has transformed and reshaped the way we communicate, and therefore, the way PR practitioners and organisations handle their relationship with their publics. The second point was that social media provides a very useful new tool for PR practitioners and that it has extended their skills set.  Our third argument was about how organisations and the public can now share information, content, opinions without intermediaries, which provides more transparency and better communication. And finally, our last argument was that social media had definitely empowered the audience and has balanced the debate. We thought the rest of the class would be for the motion but surprisingly enough, only two people were for, the rest was mostly against or neutral. And I have to say, as the debate went along, I started to change my mind and by the end I didn’t know what to think anymore.

Our opponents argued that 61% of the world’s population still hasn’t access to the internet, according to the ITU, and that it was difficult to find reliable sources on social media. They also argued that brands used social media as they would use traditional media and we agreed that it was a matter of skills set more than anything.

It is true that there is a huge gap between the potential of social media and what happens in reality but I think that if PR practitioners started to see social media as more than another media but as a proper tool, practices would really benefit from it and two-way conversations would become a reality.

Of course, one could say that social media will always be used by PR as any other media but in the light of my research and what has been said during that debate (and it triggered a lot of reactions !), I think we’re on our way to two-way conversations on social media. Change is definitely happening, even though many organisations still don’t use social media platforms in the right way.

After this debate, I didn’t really know what to think, both our teams had good arguments and evidence. But I choose to have faith that social media will be used to its full potential as the PR industry evolves. Of course, it hasn’t happened yet, social media has only been here for less than a decade but when I see what the Y generation can accomplish on the medium, I think we’re on the right way and PR practitioners should learn from that.

An example of how social media is used by the younger generation :

References :

Grunig and Hunt (1984) Managing Public Relations

Infographic :

Further Reading :

Phillips and Young (2009), Online Public Relations, Kogan Page, London.

Potter, H (2010), Integrating Social Media into PR plans – Accessed at <>

FunkyMarketingTV video :

Debate Outline

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