Thursday, October 2, 2008

YouTube: The New Frontier in Social Media? (Blog 2)

Last Monday in my Online Public Relations course we watched a fascinating video about how YouTube is (as my professor put it) 'changing the social landscape of communication'. At first, I was skeptical. Usually, I use YouTube for a variety of reasons; like to watch commercials that I heard are funny, to watch skits from stand-up comedy, or to see clips of presidential candidate debates that I may have missed. Never before did I really consider the impact of an online social media such as YouTube on communication until this course, or even more so specifically the video. I wish I had a link to it, and as soon as I find one I will edit it in, but it is worth the watch believe me.

For this weeks blog, my professor has asked us to elaborate on how we believe that a public relations practitioner could use YouTube to promote an organization and how it could potentially affect their image.

Before I can directly confront this question, it is important to briefly discuss YouTube's intended public(s) - or as many think of it, YouTube's audience. The video I watched said that the majority of YouTube's videos are not of professional quality, rather, that they were done on home video cameras and uploaded by people like you and I. Who then would the intended public be for such a video? Perhaps someone uploads a video with the intention to send out a link of it with their Christmas cards to family so that they can see how much older their children have become, or maybe it was a complaint about the new Facebook format, or maybe even a personal date ad. Many of the videos posted on YouTube may not even have a specific audience in mind - perhaps they were simply uploaded in hopes of fame, fortune, or their 20 seconds in the spotlight.

For a PR professional, however, having an intended public is imperative. Now, there are the examples of how sometimes not having an intended audience may actually be successful still; like the gentleman who did the experiments with mentos and diet coke. At first, Coca-Cola was against their videos, but once they evolved into an online phenomenon they quickly realized that there was a potential gold mine to be discovered and quickly hopped on board. Soon, Coca-Cola's marketing and PR team was signing and promoting the video's creators. The majority of videos posted on YouTube aren't going to gain this type of popularity.

That doesn't mean YouTube isn't a valuabe communication tool to connect with the public(s) though. For example, it could be used in a crisis situation. Perhaps one of the many banks that are failing in our economy right now want to 'reassure' their stockholders or potential investors they could develop a video and have it posted on YouTube. Another example of how a PR practitioner may use YouTube is as a form of feedback. On one hand you may be able to upload videos to send out information, it is also just as easy to watch videos to gather information. What are people posting about your organization? What types of videos are out there? Are they good or bad? Who is posting them? YouTube is an indirect way for organizations to communicate with their public(s).

By creating this indirect channel of communication, an organization can have a very proactive approach to assessing and renegotiating their image. By uploading videos and releasing information before the press does, they can help shape and control the way that their public(s) might view a particular person, event, or the organization in general. Retroactively they can evaluate other videos, or user feedback about their videos, and determine what they are doing correct or incorrect. YouTube has the ability to greatly enhance or hinder the image of an organization, and it is very important that PR professionals utilize it for the betterment of their company and increased communication with their public(s).

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