From the rise of digital PR to the popularisation of an influencer-based online culture, there is no question that social media has significantly disrupted the field of Public Relations in recent years. To know more about the evolving dynamics of this relationship in Lebanon and the region, ArabAd reached out to PR Specialist Tony Abou Ghazaly, Founder of The Agenda Beirut, for firsthand insight on the topic.
Based on your personal experience and expertise, in what ways do you think the rise of social media has influenced the PR industry in the region?
The rise of social media actually revolutionised the PR industry. Digital PR plays a humongous role nowadays. All types of companies are heavily focusing on the presence of bloggers and influencers at their events, just like and even more than their regular PR, because they know that posts made by these influencers will get them a bigger reach.
What are the key principles of utilizing social media as a PR tool for both brands and individuals?
The key principle is communicating the brand’s message in a correct way. Social media is very critical and any misstep on it can go viral. Bloggers and social media platforms should be very well briefed about all the details of the campaigns/events they promote. Also, the choice of platforms and influencers is equally crucial, as both have to be in harmony with the brand’s identity.
On the other hand, what kind of challenges has social media imposed upon modern-day PR professionals?
Social media is moving at a very fast pace. This is a big challenge for PR professionals as they have to always be up-to-date, adapt quickly and even monitor on the spot with all the developments and live coverage options on social media nowadays.
Many people today market themselves as 'influencers' on social media platforms. But what are the characteristics that make up a 'real' influencer amid such an oversaturated scene?
This has been a very controversial issue, but we now have official reports from social media platforms such as the ‘impressions’ that an influencer reaches. Companies can ask for screenshots of the impressions, which can never be bought, unlike likes and followers. There are many software programmes that can tangibly clarify the matter.
How do you identify key influencers to collaborate with as part of your work?
The engagement of the influencer is very important. But I am never infatuated by the number of followers as much as the neat identity an influencer has. The quality of the page is very important as well. Overall, a combination of good engagement and good content is preferable.
Do you believe there are certain ethics that influencers should stick to when it comes to promoting third-party products/services on social media?
Of course, the influencer represents the brand. Therefore, if any misunderstanding happens they should definitely communicate it to the PR/brand and never harm it online. I particularly emphasise the good choice of influencer, which comes from studying his/her collaborations and asking about their previous experiences very well. At the end of the day, some people just want attention on social media, so they would go about and post spicy incorrect piece of content or scandal about a certain brand to draw attention.
Building upon your professional journey, in what ways do you see social media shaping the future of PR?
This is just the beginning of a new era in PR and marketing. Offline media will never die and I strongly and firmly believe in its perpetual importance, but there is a definite shift happening and social media is becoming a main tool in every brand’s communication.
The Agenda Beirut is a non-formal education group that offers a set up of short programmes (Lecture based, short courses and workshops) under the umbrella of Arts, Media, Lifestyle, Luxury and Society.
The Agenda Beirut is often developing collaboration with clients inserting workshops and bringing in experts to their events. The demand for such creative PR and total marketing events was such that The Agenda Beirut has created a new department handling solely clients' request for PR strategies and events management for their brands.