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What PR Can Learn From Social Media’s Brexit Fallout

David KeevillGuest Post by David Keevill
. David is a PR Consultant at Rhizome Media. You can connect with David on LinkedIn or Twitter.

If you were to take even the most cursory look at my Facebook wall last Thursday, you’d have assumed that the results of the EU referendum were a foregone conclusion.

Friday dawned and the internet imploded in palpable disbelief.

“I don’t know anyone who voted Leave – how did this happen?!” hollered a former work colleague.

“Let’s start an e-petition to overturn this!” cried ex-schoolmate turned besuited banker type.

“Yer nan’s screwed it for us” squawked that guy I went to Bridge Club with.

Britan BrexitBy Friday evening we’d reached Peak Incredulity. Across the social ether you could hear synapses popping as people struggled to shout over the din of universal outrage.

But of course, it wasn’t universal. My own slice of the internet, in which I choose to inhabit with like-minded peers, had become an echo chamber of self-consuming opinion – with the upshot being that people assumed that everyone else held the same views.

Herein lies a valuable lesson for us public relations bods.

As the internet continues to provide more avenues to consume news, people increasingly rely on aggregated news channels and social media to cut through the noise.

The danger here is that using your own peer-selected social groups to harvest news would deafen you to what’s happening outside of this feedback loop.

This is especially pertinent for public relations who need an expansive knowledge of the media and events that are relevant to the sector(s) they work in.

If you’re self-styled property communications experts, for example, a working knowledge of the mortgage trades is important, but reading around the wider implications of market-moving macro news is equally vital.

There’s no room for snobbishness, either. It makes no difference if you object to the MailOnline or The Guardian on principle – stow your cynicism, read and learn if you are ever going to help a client into them.

And forgive me for going all Pre-Jurassic, but while print continues to command influence with its readership, trumpeting the tedious ‘print is dead’ idiom while trawling Twitter just isn’t going to cut it.

If Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that just listening to cannibalism and regurgitated opinion is a surefire way to get blindsided. The navel-gazing tendencies promoted by social media should serve as warning for anyone working in the communications industry.