BLOG POST 4: Public Relations and the online environment

How have digital platforms changed PR strategies and how do they interact with non-digital platforms?

 The reign of digital platforms in modern communication and the consumption of goods, services and content online has prompted a shift in the relationship between PR agencies and journalists. The evolution of social media and the proliferation of digital devices has presented a revised, more cost effective and wider reaching medium for the publication of press releases, business models, current affair stories as well as the marketing and advertising of brands and services. Hence, this has forced businesses worldwide to reevaluate current approaches to commercial interaction and to adapt and diversify to the increasing popularity of digital platforms (Buresti, 2013). The following graph displays the popularity of particular online PR strategies, the results from a 2010 Econsultancy Social Media and Online PR report. (Kullin, 2010) http://www.kullin.net/2010/09/social-media-online-pr-report-2010/.

Figure 1:

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In attempting to make this shift, agencies are in exchange, met with the unprecedented and readily available data for which more accurate business models can be based upon. The advent of the big data revolution bought on by social media and digital interactions now allows PR agencies and journalists insight into consumer behaviours and preferences and the opportunity to subsequently deliver more desirable products and services.  As business analytics professional Brock Douglas states,

‘While social media presents a cost effective way to grow sales, its real value lies in the fact that it enables businesses to gain a more detailed understanding of their customers’. (Douglas, 2013, pp. 12).

In effect, the distinctive demographic picture of consumers as provided by their digital platform technology, allows for more sophisticated and targeted PR and advertising. Furthermore, unlike traditional PR model strategies, digital platforms have provided consumers the opportunity to share opinions, reviews and experiences with ease, and for other users within the community to see.

‘Twitter and other social networking platforms also allow you to micro target communications to communities of interest’. (Evans, 2011, pp. 11)

Although scepticism exists regarding the prospect of negative interaction, a strong social media presence and collaboration with IT professionals can actually provide ideal conditions to correct negative perceptions of a business or establish new ones before a large audience.

(BeBetterAtBusiness, 2012)

Modern day PR strategies have also experienced a shift in dynamics, whereby there has been a lesser emphasis or use of traditional journalism to present content or campaigns. This removal of the ‘middle man’, has given PR agencies, journalists and indeed political campaigns the opportunity to crowd source and mass communicate to their audience directly and immediately. (Evans, 2011) In the past, as a filtration of information through agencies, journalists to audience through newspaper, television and radio formats was used, digital platforms utilise cross media mediums, such as email, video, social networking, in turn reaching a wider audience and appealing to different individual content consumption patterns. The Oriella Digital Journalism Study of 2011 in particular exhibits the influence of digital platforms on the Journalism industry through a series of surveys and graphs. The results can be seen here: http://www.orielladigitaljournalism.com/visual-report.html (Oriella, 2011).

As Greg Jericho suggests, platforms such as Twitter have allowed consumers to be better connected with journalists and PR agencies for the purpose of critique, feedback and suggestions, stating that ‘Twitter made journalists available to their readers in a manner that had never happened before’ (Jericho, 2012, pp. 222).

Jericho also further emphasises the importance of social media platforms to political journalism, citing that in the case of Australian politics, for a journalist to not be involved with digital platforms would result in them rendering an ‘immediate handicap’ in the online climate (Jericho, 2012).

Campaigns and journalism reporting, in particular those of a political nature, such as Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, exhibited an authentic and un-fragmented presence across social media platforms to deliver a powerful and internationally reaching impact. The diversity of the PR strategy, and the shareable nature of relevant journal content established a distinctive and active community which would not have been possible with the use of traditional PR/Journalist business models (Norton, 2013).

It must be acknowledged, that whilst digital platforms have proved to be an invaluable asset to journalist campaigns and practises, the immediate future will not see the complete eradication of traditional journalist formats, such as newspapers and magazines. Rather, digital platforms will enhance and engage audiences in journalism and concern for credibility and objectivity in journalism, will remain imperative to the integrity of content. It has become apparent that the availability of digital publishing platforms such as blogs, has prompted the notion that all online bloggers are actually journalists and that pollution of professional content will be feasible. Journalists have been in effect been forced to assess their communication and perceptions of their audience in a way that considers them to be on a similar level, and with the ability to voice opinions to similar communities of interest without training or accreditation. (Bridges, 2013)

References: 

Bridges, S 2013, Unit 9022 Digital Media Literacies, Lecture 10, Week 10: Digital Media Literacies and PR, lecture Powerpoint slides, viewed 1 November 2013, <http://learnonline.canberra.edu.au&gt;.

Buresti, F 2013, ‘Don’t mention the B word’, B&T Journal, October 2013, pp. 10.

Douglas, B 2013, ‘The Social Analytics Saga’, B&T Journal, October 2013, pp. 12.

Evans, A (et Al) 2011, ‘Twitter As a Public Relations Tool’, Public Relations Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 5-16, viewed 10 November 2013, <http://www.byronking.com/design/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Twitter_as_a_PR_too.pdf>.

Jericho, G 2012, ‘Journalists all a Twitter’, in Greg Jericho (Ed), The Rise of the Fifth Estate, viewed 10 November 2013, University of Canberra E-Reserve.

Norton, T 2013, ‘Social Media Strategies for Advocacy and Targeted Communications’, Internews, Version 1, pp. 5-29, viewed 7 November 2013, University of Canberra E-Reserve.

Oriella PR Network 2011, Oriella, n/a, viewed 5 November 2013, <http://www.orielladigitaljournalism.com/visual-report.html>.

The Online Media Effect on Public Relations, 2012, online video, 18 November, created by Be Better at Business, viewed 7 November 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jljm7Ew-kSg>.

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