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“Nothing has so radically and fundamentally changed the way public relations professionals approach their tasks as has the Internet.”

Don Middleberg, CEO Middleberg Euro (PR Agency)

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“Many Internet marketers feel that the internet will replace traditional public relations…. Yet it’s even more important that Internet marketers build relationships now…”

Kim M Bayne, Broadcaster

Technology is only a RP tool.

As E J Lordan (1) says

“The foundations of good public relations remain the same anticipating and meeting the needs of clients and the media, and providing informed and useful counsel. Solid research, strong writing skills, creativity, and an appreciation for the values of the media and your client’s audiences are the backbone of the profession, regardless of how information is packaged.”

The History of PR Online

u Origins - 10 a few electronic sources eg Teletext. Memory was too small to support anything but the most simple still pictures.

u Present - fully integrated systems eg click on a web reference in an e-mail and you are linked to a web page.

u Future - further integration via mobile phones and small computers.

There are various ways in which the Internet creates public relations

u It can be used to distribute information to the media for onward transmission to the public

u It generates its own PR when someone visits a site.

u PR is generated when different publics or members of the public form a community and discuss an organisation.

Why should Internet Use by PR practitioners grow?

Internet Challenge to Public Relations Use of the Internet by public relations practitioners inevitably will grow in the future, for three reasons in particular.

• The demand to be educated versus being sold. Todays consumers are smarter, better educated, and more media savvy. They know when they are being hustled by self-promoters and con artists. So communications programs must be grounded in education-based information, rather than blatant promotion. The Internet is perhaps the worlds greatest potential repository of such information.

• The need for real-time performance. The world is moving quickly. Everything happens instantaneously, in real-time. As media visionary Marshall McLuhan predicted four decades ago, in the twenty-first century the world has become a global village, wired for immediate communications. Public relations professionals can use this to their advantage to structure their information to respond instantly to emerging issues and market changes.

• The need for customisation. There used to be two primary television net-works. Today, there are more than 500 television channels. Todays consumers expect more focused, targeted, one-on-one communications relationships. More and more, organisations must broadcast their thoughts to narrower and narrower population segments. The Internet offers such narrowcasting to reporters, analysts, opinion leaders, and consumers.

Communication Challenges of Traditional Enterprises

• Siloism Because many Internet business initiatives cut across several product areas, creating a co-ordinated communications strategy can be sticky.

• Speaking to New Audiences - Many larger businesses are now packaging services and products targeted to Internet start-ups and emerging businesses, which creates a love/hate dichotomy for the traditional brands.

• The ‘I don’t handle that’ syndrome - Roles in traditional communications departments are specialised and focussed, presenting an obstacle to integrated offline/online public relations and marketing.

• Speed - Layers of approval and going before “news release boards” can slow the announcement of news significantly.

• CEO as Spokesperson - One CEO representing several areas of business does not guarantee all Internet business initiatives will get top attention in the media.

Communication Barriers to the Dotcom world

Legitimisation - this means that a company entering a marketplace must compete like one of the established market leaders in order to be taken seriously.

Sustainability - The challenge for companies entering a new world is to demonstrate that they are more than just another “me-too” business. How do you convince your potential customers that you are not just a flash in the pan, but will be around in the long term to service their needs and therefore it is worth them choosing to build a relationship with you.

Education - is required as, if no one understands your business, how do you convince them to interact with your organisation.

Leadership - If a new business is to succeed it needs to lead on issues of responsibility in privacy, security and customer care. This is even more true in the wired world than in traditional markets.

4 Fast rules of Communicating in the digital age

• Move fast

Internet markets will not wait unlike conventional markets. As soon as an issue or concept arises in cyberspace it needs instant reaction. The market will not wait.

Is the Internet too Fast?

In 18 Associated Press displayed, in error, an announcement of the death of the entertainer Bob Hope on its web page.

This was picked up an announced in the US House of Representatives, and this triggered stories nationwide.

It only took a few minutes to confirm that Hope was in fact having breakfast with his family but by then the news was out, and many were left with egg on their faces.

Would this have happened with older technologies?

• Be entrepreneurial

In the past the PR professional often had time to research what was an appropriate response to an issue. Now as a result of the speed of the internet the public demands a response before any research can be conducted. As a result successful Internet PR requires an entrepreneurial approach where responses are made based on understanding and knowledge of the markets and an ability to make judgements using business models.

• Be adaptive

Again as a result of the speed of the Internet PR communicators should assume that the market will change every 4 months compared to the traditional organisation where plans are normally made for a year.

• Build credibility

See checklist below

The Credibility Checklist

Ensure that-

• the Spokesperson for the organisation should evoke confidence, and exude honesty and concern with all audiences.

• all ‘skeletons’ from the organisations past and previous management experiences should be known by the communications team, so that they can prepare a contingency plan to handle any volatile issues.

• proper customer care channels are established on & off-line.

• The organisation’s previous record shows that the organisation over-delivers or at least meets its promises.

• the organisation has support from third party industry and financial analysts and endorsers.

• employees and customers believe in the company’s goals and vision and some are willing to speak out publicly in support of the organisation

• the PR team believe in the organisation and what the company and it’s management are setting out to accomplish.

Guidelines to Implementing New Technology in PR

Fearful that they may be missing out on something there is a big demand for PR to use the latest technology but this requires caution and the use of

Guidelines to Implementing New Technology in PR

• The speed limit keeps going up

• eg the rate at which news is disseminated has increased rapidly. We now have 4 hour news on TV via satellite and cable broadcasts, or in real time on-line. This has led to the creation of “pre-news” stories. These are the stories that have not yet reached the traditional media such as the terrestrial TV or Newspapers. These stories are just breaking on-line and require the news hound to be proactive in searching for stories rather than act traditionally and wait to be informed.

• Know when your audience is ready (for new media)

• Not all (end user) audiences are happy to use new media. For example, how many retired people actively use the Internet compared to younger people.? How many own a DVD? etc. They may be technophobes or they may see no advantage in using the new media. May be they are not skilled in or linked to the new technologies. This may simply be because it does not fit with the end users needs. For example, do you send pension forms on the Internet?

• On-line means up to date - beware the hidden costs.

• Creating a web page initially may be relatively cost-efficient but web pages need to be kept up-to-date and the maintenance costs of a web site can be substantial. To those used to seeking news on the web your page will cease to be a source if it isn’t current.

• If you’re getting on the information high-way, get in the right lane.

• Is your web page in the right place to be noticed? There are two strategies to achieve this Firstly get on listed by the top search engines eg Yahoo, Lycos etc, and secondly consider aligning yourself with others in similar industries - by creating links to similar pages you increase the chance that browsers will hit your site.

• One and one can equal three

• Use synergy and integrate the messages. For example, if you have a web page make sure it is referenced in your brochures, and other promotions. Alternatively make references to printed materials or sales people on your web site.

• Give them what they want - the way they want it.

• As recently as 1, 80% of Journalists still preferred to receive information in the form of a printed press release. How do reporters want their information delivered? Some never open letters others never surf the net. However it is not only expensive to send out messages in every format, it is also an unwritten taboo which will irritate the recipient and make all but the first message redundant. It is valid to offer your message in different formats but the media will be more responsive if you ask each member of the audience how they want the message delivered.

Cyber tools -

u E-mails - has largely replaced faxes & traditional print

u Intranets - an internal web site

u Web sites - used by PR to get news out directly to publics without it being filtered by intermediaries.

u On-line Media Relations - the use of web sites to deal direct with the media especially true in high tech markets.

u On-line monitoring - especially for negative comments and threats to organisations on rogue sites, chat lines and discussion groups.

u Product promotion - the web supports an integrated marketing approach through direct contact with potential customers

u Investor relations - available on an real time basis.

The 7Cs of the Customer Interface

The following factors are the design factors identified by Rayport & Jaworski, 00, introduction to e-commerce as the choices to be made in creating an effective web site. The 7Cs of the Customer Interface

• Context

• is the site’s layout and design. It will include issues both utilitarian, such as ease of navigation, and aesthetic such as use of graphics and colours.

• Content

• is the subject matter of the site such as text, pictures, sound and video that the web site contains.

• Community

• relates to the way in which the site enables user-to-user communication. This may be via e-mails or chat rooms etc but it is particularly important in relation to PR as it can result in favourable or adverse discussion about the host organisation without the host having control.

• Commerce

• concerns the site’s ability to effect commercial transactions. The level of security and the ease with which transactions are achieved will significantly affect the user’s opinion of the organisation.

• Connection

• is the degree to which a particular site is linked with others. For example a PR agent may create links to other sites to provide additional background information in support of their position.

• Communications

• is the enabling of links between site-to-user, user-to-site, or two way communication. This creates a dialogue between the organisation and its publics which can help to facilitate good PR.

• Customisation

is the ability of the site to tailor itself to different users (tailoring is initiated and managed by the firm) or to allow users to personalise the site themselves.

PR Resources online include

u Media Directories

+ list media such as newspapers, radio stations etc. eg BRAD,

u Clipping Service and Monitoring Bureaus

+ these services extract information on specific subjects, companies , products etc from the media eg www.ewatch .com

u News Distribution and Wire Services

+ these services disseminate news to others eg.

Tips for Using E-mails to Get News Coverage

Some tips apply equally to any release. Such as

u Think before you write

u Target narrowly and carefully

u Keep it short (for e-mails no more than a page)

u Keep the subject and content of your message relevant to your target

u Tailor the submission to the media editorial style or content

u Reread, and rewrite many times before you send copy.

u Disseminate news regularly

Other tips are more specific to e-mails. Such as

u Use a two step approach - query with a hook and news angle before transmitting a news release.

u Tailor the submission to the media editorial style or content

u Address each e-mail message separately to an individual media target.

u Be brutally honest with yourself and your media contacts.

u Link content to other web materials

u Follow-up in a timely manner and encourage feedback including names , addresses, format preference. etc.


u Rayport & Jaworski, 00 -introduction to e-commerce, McGraw-Hill

u Lordan E J, 1, Guidelines for Implementing New Technology in Public Relations, Public Relations Quarterly, Fall, pp15-17

u Bayne, K M. 000, The Internet Marketing Plan, nd Edition, Wiley

u Middleberg, D. 001, Winning PR in the Wired World, McGraw-Hill

u Seital F P, 001, The Practice of Public Relations, 8th Edition, Prentice Hall, Chapter 1.

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