Social Media and Their Effect on PR

September 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm (Uncategorized)

MTV Video Music Awards ShowLast night I settled down on the couch with my boyfriend to watch the VMAs thinking it would be a laid-back, relaxing night. Little did we all know it would turn into an example of just how fast we as PR pracitioners must be in reacting to negative events that can possibly implicate our clients.

I’m sure you’ve all already heard about what happened when Taylor Swift was awarded her Moon Man for Best Female Video. Kanye, for some stupid reason, felt the need to jump up on stage and voice his opinion to millions of viewers that Beyonce deserved the award more than her.

I, like many people at home, was immediately outraged by Kanye’s actions. So like any social media junkie, I logged on to Twitter to make a strongly worded statement about the whole situation. Turns out I wasn’t alone. After posting my comment, I was curious how many other Twitter nerds like myself were venting to the world. Results mentioning “Taylor Swift” or “Kanye” exploded just minutes after the event. Even as I looked at the page, a bar at the top kept updating: “2059 new results,” “3025 new results.” As many times as I clicked refresh, it seemed like there were at least 500 new results in the time it took me to read one Tweet. While some people defended Beyonce’s video, there was an obvious majority of people who were just as angry as I was at Kanye. Within 10 minutes of the event, my roommate tweeted, “I think I’m the only person who isn’t watching the VMA’s. I am already sick of reading everyone’s pointless tweets about Kanye.” Even people who weren’t watching MTV knew exactly what had happened only minutes afterwards.

This morning as I was getting ready for class, I logged onto to catch up on all the celebrity gossip that ensued. Posted on the Web site was an apology that Kanye posted to his blog sometime between the end of the show and 6:00 am. In the span of time it would have taken people to find out about the VMA drama only a few years ago, people heard about the event, slammed Kanye with comments online, and he issued a somewhat acceptable apology. It’s amazing how quickly the SMR cycle can move these days!

This event is a perfect example of how quickly one can receive feedback and react to it (not that the entire audience booing Kanye off the stage wasn’t big enough of a hint already).

Moral of the story? With new media constantly being developed, our job is becoming easier and easier. Our purpose is to measure publics’ reactions to certain events or materials. By using media Web sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, blogs, etc. we are able to measure a public’s reaction immediately, and post information aimed at that particular public within minutes.

But this event also shows that a client’s reputation can be ruined beyond repair in a split second. I’m interested to see what Kanye’s PR folks do in the coming days.

P.S. Kudos to Beyonce for knowing how to separate herself from Kanye and his actions by allowing Taylor to use her VMA Video of the Year speech time.



  1. Nicole said,

    WOW- this was an intense TV moment. I feel like the last time something like this was such a big deal was the whole Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl event.

    I completely agree that PR is becoming easier (and a more evident on PR’s necessity!) to keep track of with new media. With the Web sites available and all the social networking that links the world together, it is unbelievable how quickly news can travel and how crisis management (especially in Kanye’s case) is something that needs to be acted upon immediately.

    Double kudos to T-Swift for acting with grace through the situation, Beyonce for being awesome and acknowledging Taylor.

  2. Tyler Daniels said,

    This event certainly captured the attention of a lot of people, including social media users. While I agree that this new system of media allows us to see trends much easier than before, for less tech-savy practitioners this may be more of burden than an advantage.

    We are lucky to have grown up in a generation where social media is part of everyday life. For those who entered the practice before social media took off I’m sure adapting to this new form of public relations can be frustrating.

    It seems the game has changed completely and now those who have seniority may be competeing with tech-savy kids just entereing the field.

    I agree though, it really is crazy how much quicker things work now. It almost seems you need to have your clients on a leash.

  3. ktmcahill said,

    MTV certainly knows how to put on a show, planned or otherwise. It really is amazing how social media has changed things. Sad to say, in my case, it has made me lazier about getting “news” than ever before. The next day, instead of going to Twitter and checking up on what all my favorite celebrities had said about the fiasco, I just typed in a google search “celebrity tweets kanye taylor” or something to that effect. Naturally, there were already a TON of blog posts about who said what. And here we are now talking about this on a blog! It’s all pretty incredible.

  4. Alex Klaes said,

    I agree! Thanks to all the new social media outlets at the hands of the masses, getting a feel for the public’s response is a lot easier. The internet has seemed to act as a major tool to decrease PR workers’ speculation and has allowed more effective crisis management. Kanye was out of line even with his quickly leaked appology statement. This was a big mess that had to be cleaned up and as a result, I am glad to say, Kanye has stayed out of the limelight!

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