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Public Relations is a set of management, supervisory, and technical functions that foster an organization’s ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons whose mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values.
Robert Heath, Encyclopedia of Public Relations
Traditional PR (public relations) has focused on crafted press releases and company image. It has provided a controlled release of information and a communication process that relies on journalists and traditional media such as newspapers. This modus operandi has been enormously impacted by the spread and influence of the Internet.
While the Internet provides excellent tools to the PR industry, the shift in communications afforded by the Internet has also caused a ruckus in the world of public relations. Information is freely available and accessible to a far greater audience, as opposed to being controlled through a select group of journalists. Communication is taking place in the realm where the consumer feels most comfortable, as opposed to the channels dictated by the company.
PR needs to follow this shift, especially as consumers are increasingly turning to a “person like me” for trusted advice, as opposed to mainstream media outlets.“‘A Person Like Me’ Now Most Credible Spokesperson for Companies,” press release, Edelman, January 23, 2006, http://www.edelman.com/news/showone.asp?id=102 (accessed May 28, 2008).
In 2009, Google introduced Google Social Search, which finds relevant public content from your friends and contacts and highlights it for you at the bottom of your search results. This further illustrates how consumers will be shifting their trust from traditional media.
The Internet provides savvy PR professionals with plenty of tools for listening to and engaging with a far wider community and can have immense benefits for companies that are willing to be transparent in their communications. It also allows companies to engage in a more immediate form of communication.
Web public relations (WebPR) collectively stands for the ways in which you can get your message out online. It is used to connect with customers and enhance brand awareness, exposure, and SEO (search engine optimization) efforts using various online channels like article directories, press release sites, industry related sites, online newsrooms, blogs, forums, and social media.
In a connected, digital world, PR isn’t just about the press release; it’s about connecting with customers.
Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen, “More Than a Press Release: Extending Your Online PR Efforts,” ClickZ, March 30, 2006, http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3594951 (accessed May 28, 2008).
As new communication tools became available with the developments of the Internet, so they became available to the PR industry. It also revealed a wider audience for a company’s stories and developed new channels for promoting them. With the rise of social media, and especially the growing influence of bloggers, it became clear that PR officers needed to reach out to more than just journalists.
However, the road has been rocky, and traditional PR has in some instances struggled to cope with the new rules of engagement.
In February 2006, Tom Foremski wrote in his post “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!”: “I’ve been telling the PR industry for some time now that things cannot go along as they are…business as usual while mainstream media goes to hell in a hand basket.”Tom Foremski, “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!” Silicon Valley Watcher, February 27, 2006, http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2006/02/ die_press_relea.php (accessed May 28, 2008).
Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail, announced on his blog in October 2007 that he was blocking “lazy flacks [who] send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.”Chris Anderson, “Sorry PR People: You're Blocked,” The Long Tail, October 29, 2007, http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/10/sorry-pr-people.html (accessed May 11, 2010).
However, a 2005 experiment showed that press releases can garner a better ROI (return on investment) than a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign.Sean Carton, “How Is Information Passed Around the Web?” ClickZ, October 3, 2005, http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3552876 (accessed May 28, 2008). So it’s worth ensuring you know how to be an effective practitioner in today’s connected environment in order to do the following:
- Get new business
- Extend reach
- Promote current product offering and services