Listen: How Social Media Has Changed the PR Game

Cynthia Littleton

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At a time when stars have easy access to their own megaphones to reach fans, there’s a growing wariness in the celebrity industrial complex about engaging in old-school journalistic efforts such as the access magazine profile or get-to-know-you meetings with reporters. And that’s a huge mistake, in the eyes of Sean Cassidy, president of the New York-based PR and marketing firm DKC.

In the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Cassidy discusses the new rules of engagement when it comes to image-making — and image-protecting — for individuals and corporate brands. DKC represents a range of individuals and corporate brands in entertainment, sports, commercial airlines, health care, fashion and beauty. The challenge for PR representatives is to stay vigilant in watching what is being said out there in social media, and knowing when to respond and when to stay quiet.

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“This is not an industry for people who panic,” said Cassidy, who climbed the ranks at DKC beginning in 1992. “The role of the public relations executive is to be somebody who understands the news cycle. You have to think like an editor. It is about constant vigilance and exercising news judgment in relation to what’s going on in social media.”

Cassidy said some clients come to DKC with the idea that they can sidestep the traditional news media by using social channels to feed statements and information directly to fans and consumers. Some celebrities have concerns about giving extensive interviews lest a comment wind up being blown out of proportion or taken out of context when condensed to Twitter-sized bites. “In an environment that’s very clickbait-driven that’s always a concern,” Cassidy said.

But his advice to clients is that it almost always pays to establish a relationship with key journalists.

“One of the misconceptions about the media is that the press is the enemy, and you shouldn’t deal with them because they’re out to get you,” Cassidy said. “The press is there to get at the truth. As long as you’re comfortable telling the truth, there’s no issue.”

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