Thursday, November 4, 2010

Web's Growing Importance in Public Relations

For a recent class assignment, I had to write a short reflection on why web is essential in any PR campaign, any marketing plan or any effective communications strategy. Unfortunately, there are many who would rather reject new technology than take advantage of it. Fortunately, I'm not one of them.

Hardly anything exists outside of the internet these days. There are very few people who don’t use email or some internet website or application to communicate with others. In such an online oriented world, it’s pretty much impossible to work in public relations without using the internet as one of your major tools. Public relations is all about communication, as is the internet. It’s only natural that the two would go together.

Due to the similar goals of public relations and the internet, it becomes essential that the public relations department of an organization play a major role in that organization’s social media strategy. Social media is about communicating with a public, about managing a company’s reputation, which is the job of public relations. In order for social media to be effective, an organization must know its public well enough to reach out to that public and interact with that public, also parts of a public relations job description. Who knows an organization’s public better than the public relations department that has researched the organization’s public and based company decisions on that public?

In modern America, most publics use online media, so a successful organization will use what its public uses to reach its public. This means integrating convergent elements and campaigns into a holistic message. The way that message is conveyed will differ depending on the medium of communication, but it will still need to be conveyed through each medium. It’s also important to note that the information conveyed through social networks will still depend on the organization as a whole. An organization’s online efforts cannot exist on their own. They need to remain connected with the efforts made by the organization that aren’t internet related. The point of integrated, converged media is to integrate things that exist offline with things that exist online so as to cater to an online public.

The existence of an online public has entirely changed public relations and reputation management. Organizations must now cater to an audience that wants information fast and a public that wants to interact with organizations online. The internet makes it easier for rumors and falsities to spread, but it also makes it easier for organizations to respond to accusations and false statements quickly, accurately and effectively. An organization’s website, for example, can provide press releases in addition to its regular informational features. Websites can link to Facebook, Twitter and other accounts that allow publics to interact with organizations. And, when created right, an organization can hold its public’s attention through proper, attractive design and information. Without a proper website, an organization repels instead of attracts an audience, and it neglects an opportunity to create a positive reputation for itself. People talk about what they like and complain about what they don’t like. A negative reaction to a site can create an even larger negative public image of the organization overall.

Thus, as technology advances and as the internet becomes an increasingly popular place for communication, successful organizations must monitor their publics’ activities and become a part of those activities by creating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Such accounts require constant monitoring. In other words, organizations need employees to reply to posts and comments. Organizations need to research their publics and create proper environments online for those publics to interact with them. Without such monitoring, without even a basic online forum or website, an organization is likely to be unsuccessful. Of course, the necessities for success vary from company to company, but that’s what public relations is there for: to monitor publics and to decide what needs to be done in order to effectively communicate to those publics a positive image of the company both offline and online.

1 comment:

  1. I like the point about assigning people to monitoring web comments and mentions. It's not just good PR, it's good customer relations.