Updated: Dec 21, 2020
I enjoyed joining Marcia DiStaso and Tina McCorkindale during a speaking event with SUNY Oswego University on November 9th, 2020. DiStaso and McCorkindale discussed what current social media managers had to say about their jobs. The pair had conducted a study where they collected several responses from these managers. It was fascinating to gain perspective from the people who currently hold these positions, as I am looking to start a social media career after I graduate.
As the event began, DiStaso explained the importance of communications. She stated that communications is, in fact, everywhere. She said that most communication jobs fall within the field of public relations. When an individual understands the concept of public relations, they, intern, have an advantage when attempting to run any social media account. This is because public relations practitioners focus on creating a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization/person and their public. When anyone attempts to run a social media account, they must create content that will benefit themselves and their viewers.
Thus, it is clear that holding a job as a social media manager can be very demanding. DiStaso and McCorkindale found in their study that most social media managers work much more than 40 hours per week. Social media is constant. Publics expect regular updates on their favorite brands, organizations, and people. This continuous stream of social media can be beneficial, as the public is always kept updated on current news. However, this influx of social media can also be harmful. Both DiStaso and McCorkindale agree that social media holds intense influence over the world, so when the media starts to provide disinformation – it can become problematic.
Tina McCorkindale - President and CEO, Institute for Public Relations
Disinformation refers to information that intends to mislead an audience. DiStaso and McCorkindale were sure to differentiate between disinformation and fake news. They stated that fake news holds several different means depending on who you are speaking to, so they chose to avoid this topic entirely in their study. This is when the conversation moved to TikTok. Tiktok is an interesting social media platform because it does not pair you with already familiar information. While looking at your For You Page, Tiktok’s algorithm introduces you to new creators and companies based on your previous likes. DiStaso and McCorkindale discussed how companies could use this algorithm to feed viewers disinformation. TikTok has not banned such intentional false information and cannot legally be held responsible for its existence.
As DiStaso and McCorkindale previously stated, it is valuable for social media managers to understand public relations. As any individual is searching to create mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their public, incorporating the Two-Way Symmetrical PR Model into their work is vital. This public relations model “seeks to promote mutual benefits, understanding, and respect between the organization and key publics/stakeholders” (PB Pressbook). When working towards such mutual respect, ethicsbegin to play a role. Public Relations practitioners are left to deal with ethical decisions very often. Therefore, when dealing with social media platforms such as TikTok, it would be useful to have previous ethical decision-making experience. Social media managers who work on TikTok need to stay mindful of what will benefit their public. It is important to weigh whether or not disinformation will provide long-term positive or adverse effects.
As I approach my early career after college, I will keep this ethical thought process in mind. As stated in my code of ethics, I have formed strong morals and values within my life that I have vowed to maintain throughout my career. These morals and values will drive every decision I make. Regardless of whether or not my career lands within the field of public relations, I will always stay mindful of the two-way symmetrical model of PR as I strive to maintain mutual respect between myself and my publics.