The Internet has greatly changed the way PR is done; it has made it easier, and more difficult at the same time, for PR practitioners, professionals, and businesses doing their own PR. On one hand, PR has become easier to implement because of the immediacy of sharing information. Moreover, audiences can now be reached directly rather than having to go through a media contact or publication (though those outlets are still useful sources of coverage and publicity, and large outlets are still seen as trustworthy sources of information).
On the other hand, the Internet has made it more difficult for PR professionals in the sense that there the audiences that can be reached now includes the public, which is a drastic change from the “old days” of PR. What that means then is that PR professionals need to learn how to reformat their messages to create new, interactive campaigns and PR plans, and get ready to partake in two-way conversations, which is another drastic change from the old ways of getting publicity and doing PR.
So, how do you keep up? By being aware of these changes and adapting your techniques accordingly. Ways to do this include the following:
- Recognizing the customers’ need to communicate with you. With the availability of that connection and communication taking place, (and especially other companies already doing it), your customers might expect you to be online and interacting with them there. With the tools available to you, this can be an easy step to implement. These include: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, foursquare, and others. A new networking site seems to pop-up every week with the hopes of going big like Twitter; evaluate each one in relation to your company and decide then if it makes to implement using them. Customers want to communicate and will gladly do so if you simply make it so that they can.
- Actually communicating with your customers. Initiating or offering the ability for your customers to communicate with you is not enough; you must actively engage them to keep them coming to you with ideas, complaints, and concerns. This will help prevent them from going elsewhere if they have a complaint, and often times the users of your products are the best sources for product improvements and changes. Moreover, this can be a great way to learn how to tailor messages and campaigns to better reach your audiences.
- See what your competition is up to. This can help you gauge where your campaign fits in. If you are able, find out the sort of success they are having. You can usually do this through financial reports (though attributing success to a PR campaign or plan can be a bit of a challenge), their blogs or websites, and through their news rooms and press coverage. With a little research you can see the effectiveness of their efforts and see where they’ve perhaps made mistakes. This is a great advantage of not being an incumbent company in an industry.
- Do your research. This is something I say for every aspect of business and every venture your company attempts (and I may be beating a dead horse here), but it as important here as it is in other areas of your business. This is the best way of having an educated approach to everything you do and can greatly increase your chances for success. For this sort of business action, do your research on the new (to you or the industry) tools available online.
- See what others in your industry are using. You may not use the same tools, but seeing where your competition is present online can help you to evaluate where you want to be present. Read up on the tools and try them out on your own before you publicly announce on your website or through a press release that you can be found on places like Twitter or Facebook. (Many blogs, including this one, can help you hear one interpretation of an online tool like foursquare.) Some of your loyal customers will find you without you needing to share your being on either platform, but know that doing some “behind the scenes” testing can help you to evaluate if you are, at the least, able to implement the tools into your business/PR plans.
- Read, read, read. Along the same lines of the point above of research, reading will help you to hear what the online world is saying about a particular topic and can give you many different opinions. Subscribe to Google Alerts, RSS feeds, and find sources of information that you enjoy reading. Also feel free and comfortable enough to ask questions; many bloggers encourage feedback. As a company trying to improve and adapt their PR plans, you, too, should welcome feedback to get your buyers/audiences engaged, which bloggers should also be doing. Just familiarize yourself so you can know the difference between spam comments and ones that truly offer something of value to your blog.
Overall, the online world is ever changing, and with it, PR techniques are changing. Keep yourself informed so that you can stay ahead (or at least inline) with the curve to keep your company on the forefront of that change.
What are some ways you keep up-to-date? Were there times you wish you have been more informed in an area?