Public Relations and Social Media

Figure 1: BDI Logo An essay on the Black Dog Institute’s use of social media for public relations purposes. Major Assessment: How is social media being used by not-for-profit organisations for PR purposes? Choose one not-for-profit organisation operating in Australia and discuss – with reference to public relations and new media theory – how the organisation is using social media to manage their key stakeholders and community groups online. The practice of public relations has seen a change in recent years, and now includes many and varied tools; including new media.

The term ‘new media’ encompasses a variety of non-traditional methods including social media. This essay discusses the use of social media in a public relations capacity, to assist in managing an organisation’s key stakeholders and community groups online. The focus organisation is the Black Dog Institute (BDI), a notfor-profit organisation and an “educational, research, clinical and community-oriented facility offering specialist expertise in mood disorders” (Black Dog Institute, 2012).

When considering how an organisation uses social media, it is important to understand who the key stakeholders are and also what constitutes social media tools. Some of the institute’s key stakeholders (otherwise known as the specific target audience) include health professionals, donors/sponsors and government agencies. So, with some of the key stakeholders defined, what then is social media? Social media, as a whole, is online media with which you – the user can participate.

Mayfield (2008) states that social media of all kind shares most (or all) of the following characteristics – participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness. The Black Dog institute has used several social media tools to get their message out to the wider community. The use of these new media tools, specifically social media tools, assists not-for-profit organisations such as The Black Dog Institute in managing their key stakeholders and community groups online. Social media is fast becoming an effective tool for public relations purposes and The Black Dog Institute has mplemented a variety of tools such as wikis, social networking, blogging, video, an interactive website and applications suitable for iPhone, iPad and iPod. Figure 2: Social Media The Black Dog Institute engages in wikis such as The Mental Health Wiki. The Mental Health Wiki (2012) which claims to be “a collaborative, open platform for capturing high quality information in the mental health field” is open to anyone however the site only allows suitably qualified people to contribute. So how does this wiki help The Black Dog Institute manage their key stakeholders?

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Through participation, the institute is able to demonstrate their expertise in the area of mental health therefore enhancing their reputation among other health organisations. Wikis are a potential destination for online Page 2 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment research and thus by contributing to such, the organisation is able to continuously improve relationships between themselves and their stakeholders (medical professionals) As a fundamental function of public relations is to build mutually beneficial relationships, the contributions supplied by the institute on the Mental Health Wiki would be accessible by other health care professionals.

This accessibility is a key in building such relationships, and in turn, the institute has access to other organisation’s research material. On the flip side however, it is important for the institute to consider the legal ramifications of contributing to such a forum. Flynn (2012) states that social media content can be subpoenaed and used to support (or sink) an organisation in the event of litigation, therefore it is important that the institute adheres to laws affecting PR such as copyright, privacy and the Trade Practices Act.

Facebook is a social networking site offering community, conversation and connectedness and is another largely accessible social media tool with which The Black Dog Institute has engaged. Their active Facebook site allows community groups to interact and remain connected with the institute. The site offers news feeds, events, videos and the option for like minded people to contribute to the site through ‘posts’ – discussions. Figure 3: BDI FaceBook Page According to Solis (2009) social networking is not just about socialising, it’s about leveraging the network to increase visibility for expertise, reputation and activity.

As you can see with the image, the Black Dog Institute’s Facebook page includes a picture of their facility, but is this the kind of visibility we refer to in PR? To increase their visibility (or exposure) the institute utilises social network i. e. Facebook to promote upcoming events, VIP associations, and other online presences such as websites/twitter and to provide another avenue to access their products for sale. By using social networking to increase their visibility, the institute develops another avenue to increase donations and much needed funds.

Page 3 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment Blogging is another social media tool that has been adopted by The Black Dog Institute, through the use of Twitter – a micro-blogging site. Their Twitter blogs allow readers to ‘pull’ information that is relevant to them and with the dynamic nature of blogging; the institute gains a genuine insight into the opinions of their public. In terms of public relations, blogging assists the organisation to maintain a constant and up-to-date connection with its publics.

The Black Dog Institute embraces that connection and continues to build a network (or community) of like minded people and remain connected with their audiences. With one of the most important functions of public relations being to create understanding, blogging sites such as Twitter allows The Black Dog Institute to create this understanding. Some media tools do not allow participation from an organisation’s public, however through blogging a two-way process is encouraged thereby creating a mutual understanding.

It is important to acknowledge that a forum involving two-way conversation can again place the organisation in a vulnerable position – both its’ legally and socially responsible position. Therefore maintaining an ethical approach to the blogging process, with a deliberate course of action, can help to reduce this vulnerability. Figure 4: YouTube Videos are another social media tool that an organisation can use to remain connected with their public. Sites like YouTube are becoming increasingly popular with individuals and organisations alike.

The Black Dog Institute has a YouTube channel, where subscribers can upload videos and also comment on videos uploaded by others. The institute joined the YouTube ‘phenomenon’ in September, 2011. At present there are only two videos available on their own channel, however when you search the term ‘black dog institute’ several others have been uploaded (as indicated in the above image). This indicates an increasing awareness of the institute through an often entertaining and light hearted forum. Videos offer the institute the opportunity to present their organisation in an honest and accurate way.

Further development of their YouTube channel can be achieved Page 4 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment through commenting on other contributor uploads regarding the institute and its activities from other users. Other tools utilised by the institute, which are a little out of the scope of this essay, include an iPod/iPad application – “The Black Dog Pedometer”. This tool gives the institute’s stakeholders/community access to not only a pedometer but also a link to learn more about the institute and also a donation option.

In terms of public relations, the pedometer application increases the organisations image as an authority on the subject of mental health and mood disorders. The institute also has a website developed specifically for teenagers – www. biteback. org. au which as a whole is not a social media tool; however the blog component of the site offers interaction and participation by subscribers. The Bite Back website allows the BDI public relations team to take a proactive approach to their subject of expertise, offering an engaging and interactive forum for their younger community groups.

As you can see throughout this essay, social media assists the Black Dog Institute in its’ public relations plans. Tools previously outlined such as wikis, social networking, blogging and videos assist the institute in building and improving relationships with their key stakeholders and to increase awareness and visibility of their organisation. As the momentum of social media continues, further opportunities may develop for the institute. Trimester 1, 2012 Page 5 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment Reference List: Figures Figure 1: Black Dog Institute Logo – www. lackdoginstitute. org. au (accessed 30 April, 2012) Figure 2: Social Media – http://masoncadeagency. com/wpcontent/uploads/2011/07/SMO_Social_Media_Optimization. jpg (accessed 3 May, 2012) Figure 3: Black Dog Institute Facebook page – http://www. facebook. com/blackdoginst (accessed 5 May, 2012) Figure 4: YouTube screenshot – Available: http://www. youtube. com/results? search_query=black+dog+institute+&oq=black+dog +institute+&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_l=youtube. 3… 16614. 20473. 0. 21177. 22. 19. 1. 2. 2. 1. 30 3. 2779. 5j7j6j1. 19. 0… 0. 0. (accessed 6 May, 2012)

Bibliography Texts: Ali, M 2006, Public Relations – Creating an IMAGE, Heinemann, Oxford, GB Chaffey, D & Smith, PR. 2010, eMarketing eXcellence – Planning and optimizing your digital marketing, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK. Flynn, N, 2012, Social media handbook – policies and best practices to effectively manage your organization’s social media presence, posts, and potential risks. Wiley, Australia Harrison, Kim 2011, Strategic Public Relations – A Practical Guide to Success, Palgrave Macmillan, South Yarra, Australia Lee, R & Kotler, P. 011, Social Marketing – Influencing Behaviors for Good, 4th edition. Sage, California Rix, P, 2011, Marketing – A Practical Approach, McGraw Hill, North Ryde, Australia. Solis, B & Breakenridge, D. 2009, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations – How Social Media Is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR, Pearson Education, New Jersey Page 6 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment eBooks and PDFs: Junee,T 2012, PRN101_Social_Media_2012-2 [Slide]. THINK: APM College of Business, Sydney Mayfield, A. 2008 What is Social Media? v1. 4 updated 1 August 2008 http://www. crossing. co. uk/fileadmin/uploads/eBooks/What_is_Social_Media_iCrossing_eb ook. pdf (accessed 3 May, 2012) Weblinks: Black Dog Insitute. 2012. About Us: Black Dog Institute. Available: http://www. blackdoginstitute. org. au/aboutus/overview. cfm (accessed 6 April, 2012) Harris, A. 2012. Be Social Media Savvy. Available: http://www. pria. com. au/priablog/be-social-media-savvy (accessed 7 April, 2012) Mental Health Wiki. 2012. Register: Available: http://www. mentalhealthwiki. org/deki/plugins/register/register. php (accessed 2 May,2012) Facebook. 012. Key Facts. Available: http://newsroom. fb. com/content/default. aspx? NewsAreaId=22 (accessed 1 May, 2012) YouTube. 2012. Search results for Black Dog Institute. Available: http://www. youtube. com/results? search_query=black+dog+institute+=black+dog+instit ute+=f===youtube. 3… 16614. 20473. 0. 21177. 22. 19. 1. 2. 2. 1. 303. 2779. 5j7j6 j1. 19. 0… 0. 0. (accessed 18 April, 2012) Black Dog Bite Back. 2012. Blogs: Available: http://www. biteback. org. au/ (accessed 2 May, 2012) Page 7 of 7 PRN101 – Major Assignment

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