How social media is hurting and helping the PR industry!

The digital footprint is a word that, if you have sat in on a media class at university gets thrown around a lot. “Think about your digital foot print” lecturers will most of the time tell their students, particularly the ones close to graduating, but what is the digital footprint and why is it so important to future public relations graduates.

digital footprint

The digital footprint is defined by Tony Fish as “a digital footprint is also about information that electronic device automatically add to content, location, attention, how I reached something, who sent me the content and who I sent it on to” (Fish, 2010)


This definition essentially means that our digital footprint is anything and everything we do online whether we choose to believe this is recorded or “private” is an increasing debate, especially in professions affected by the media.


Public relations is now becoming an increasingly popular profession with young school and university students, most of whom have grown up as a part of the technology generation, this means from our youth we have been using computers, phones and the internet, even the invention of social media is old enough to now be affecting our job opportunities all because of social media and our digital footprint.



Social media is seen as apart of the new wave of online interconnectedness, especially with the invention of web 2.0. But now social media is playing and increasingly important part of our life, even being able to apply or get offered jobs via LinkedIn or twitter is becoming normal, the lines between work and play are blurring. It is this converging of social media that will affect our chosen professions, if it hasn’t already affected us.


The converging of social media as described by Flew as being classed by:

  1. Dramatically reduces barriers to entry
  2. Blurring distinctions between media producers and consumers
  3. Greater empowerment of media users
  4. Potential for more personalized media environments
  5. Diversification and demassification of media content  (Flew, 2014)


It is this converging of social and alternative media that is leading to the rise in the pro-am publicist or journalist. People who might not be trained in journalism or public relations, but has some knowledge of it, and writes about it.


It has been over the past couple of years that blogging as become increasingly popular, with both university students and the like, with stay at home mum’s having an impressive readership on their parenting blog than some news articles get. But it is this interconnectedness that is both a blessing and a curse for public relations professionals.


The rise in pro-am blogging is leading to the need for more scanning on behalf of public relations practitioners, with people being able to post their opinions about any topic, we now need to know who is a viable source and who isn’t. Anyone can start and write a blog and get readers and followers, however this just increases the workload for public relations practitioners, in turn however public relations practitioners are in a greater need, not but because of bloggers but because of social media in general.


Celebrities and public figures in general have lots of public scrutiny on them, all the time. With the idea of digital footprints increasing, it is even more important for public figures or companies to have PR or some kind of form of PR. Our pasts are now erasable, especially if a friend happens to post a picture of you on Facebook while your drunk. It is now something future employers can find with the right equipment, no matter what you do to erase it.


For celebrities, the digital footprint is leading to things like naked photo scandals or their “dirty laundry” getting printed in the latest tabloid magazine, but for everyday people it is affecting their job prospects.


An article in Forbes from 2013 found that a survey on career websites suggested that 65% of employers checked social media for professionalism, about 51% searched social media to see if the candidate would be a positive fit for their company and 45 % wanted to learn more about the candidates qualifications. Essentially the study found that 89% of employers will check your social media site when employing people.(Forbes, 2013)


The moral to the story is social media is affecting our digital footprints either for better or for worse. It would be stupid for us to assume that our future employers aren’t checking our social media websites, especially if you are going to work in public relations or journalism, two professions that are heavily embedded in Web 2.0 and social media, and for the future of public relations, the digital footprint is both a blessing and a curse as is the convergence of social media and the rise in pro-am writers and bloggers.




Crenshaw, D. (2012, June 25). the 7 most amatuer mistake in PR . Retrieved March 11, 2014, from PR daily :

Fish, T. (2010). What is a digital Footprint. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from

Flew, T. (2014). New Media. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Miller, N. (2014, March 9). How Robb Lewis is helping web users erase their digital footprint with website. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from The Sydney Morning Herald :

Smith, J. (2013, April 16). How social media can help (or hurt) you in your job search. Retrieved March 10, 2013, from Forbes:

Trusty, A. (2010). Web 2.0 never forgets- developing a professional digital footprint on vimeo. Retrieved March 10, 2014, from


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