Using Public Relations In The Internet Age

The “World Wide Web” is a very big place –so big that it that makes for a smaller world.

  • Even with filters, firewalls, deliberate blocks, denial-of-service attacks and the frequent outages, the always-connected nature of the internet makes for a really small neighborhood when it comes to publicity, reputation and public image.
  • You don’t know something, you google it. You want to find out about someone, you look them up on Facebook, on LinkedIn, or search for their blog or website.
  • Human nature being what it is, you take the first few results from the searches and go on from the information you get from these sources, rarely checking to see if these sources are truly reliable or not.

And when it comes to your business reputation, this is the part where public relations comes in.

Is it in your power to control the ‘image’ you have on the internet?

To a certain extent, no.

  • Rumors spread as fast as the common cold, and are just as hard to get rid of. Once people get a certain idea into their heads, hardly any logical or reasonable discussion, debate or explanation will ever get it out.
  • There will always be trolls, ‘haters’, and people spouting their opinions just to ‘hear’ themselves talk. Say something innocuous, and a few seconds later someone can accuse you of supporting things you never said, either outright or implication.
  • There are also those who will never be happy seeing other people’s success, or their sincere efforts to help others, or improve themselves.

Leave these people alone. They don’t want to and wouldn’t listen to anything you have to say. Direct your energies towards more productive areas.

To a more definite extent, yes.
Don’t think of it as a PR firm with nattily-dressed spin-doctors and image gurus and an Effie Trinkett clone or two wandering around around the hallways. In essence, public relations is information management.

  • Inside a company, it can cover everything from internal newsletters and ‘letters from the chairman’ updates.The ‘public’ you’re addressing here is an audience composed of people who make up the company.
  • Outside the company it can cover things like newsletters, press releases, and investor updates, just to name a few. This is what we usually think of when we say ‘public.’

 

Public relations is telling the good news so people keep trusting you, telling the bad news in a way to keep their trust and carry on, and doing so in a way that isn’t disruptive or misleading.

Good public relations is handling issues gracefully and with honesty and integrity. In the environment of the internet, it also means doing this fast. The best way to stop a cold (and rumors) is prevention, right? If you keep your eyes on the workings of your company and your ears open about what people are saying, you’re in a good place to manage your brand, and deal with the inevitable negative feedback that comes with regular customer issues and doing business.

Who is the target audience for public relations?
It depends on the messages you send. It’s a basic communication rule: your messages are tailored to the recipient. You compose and aim different messages to different audiences composed of: customers, prospective customers, investors, the public, and the press, etc.

Basically, you find specific target audiences by screening them in:

  • Do these groups of people’s opinions, issues and questions matter to your business?
  • How much will their opinions, issues and questions affect your business?
  • Whose opinions matter? Should matter?
  • Where do you go to get all of this feedback, and how can the people who matter get in touch with you?
  • How do you handle those issues? Who is tasked to handle those issues? What protocols are in pace to handle ordinary issues, and deal with the sensitive ones?

Questions like these makes for a different kind of publicity for people who didn’t grow up with the internet. Surface research, social media and ratings-hungry media networks can bring news showing up an incomplete picture, one that readers, followers and viewers can take as gospel.

 

Public relations has to be responsive and responsible. In light of the cynicism and general negativity that surfaced in the wake of massive cover-ups –especially during the financial meltdown years ago– it’s harder to trust what people say. That’s why building and keeping a reputation for honesty and integrity is key.

Public relations is managing the information shared with the public; this covers online media strategies, and press releases. Think of your business’s ‘About’ page, and throw in testimonials and media updates as well. Public — open to everyone, right out there for all to see.

Just as your appearance influences how people perceive you, controlling the way the public perceives your business influences its continued health and viability.

Media relations are also vital links to your marketing effort. Think of product launches and movie premieres.

  • A movie is a product of the film studio, right? How does the company get publicity for the movie and hype up the audience’s anticipation? Teaser trailers, behind-the-scenes peeks, video, audio and textual interviews with the cast, conventions, product and merchandise tie-ins…you’ve seen major movies being promoted, you have an idea of the the publicity machine works.
  • Think of the business section of the newspapers and online news sites. Headlines and leads announce a lot of events; mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, trade shows, company or product innovations, awards given and received, anniversaries, promotions…

News outlets, reporters, magazines, newspapers, radio and talk shows, streaming media and podcasts…when we say public relations, we can use all the platforms people use to talk to big audiences. The internet is a very big platform in itself, and the world-wide audience it gives to anyone connected to it is a massive responsibility to maneuver and use wisely.

People talk, and when you want to cultivate a reputation for excellent products, trustworthiness, and reliability, you have to act in ways that prove those things out, as well as come up with a communication style, system and team to handle all the feedback, questions and communications that come with doing so. Public relations is your key.

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