Public relations (PR) is about managing the brand or company's reputation, as well as its communications and relationships with its publics. PR encompass a wide variety of activities, everything from press releases to hair-raising publicity stunts a la Paris Hilton and her taped exploits.
For those that are at the receiving end of a PR campaign, there are generally two trains of thought: it's either all attention-seeking fluff, or it's totally credible as it is not a paid form of communication. Whatever your thoughts on it, one cannot deny that sometimes good PR is the only thing that can save your brand from going under - especially if you operate on the scale of Johnson&Johnson and some idiot has tampered with your pain-relieving product. Can you say crisis management?
The most obvious difference between public relations offline and public relations online is, well, one is online and the other isn't. Traditional public relations uses traditional media such as newspapers and television, whereas public relations online employs vehicles such as blogs, social networking sites and YouTube.
There are other less obvious differences as well. For example, running a PR campaign on radio or television doesn't mean squat in terms of consumer perception or feedback. However, if you posted the same campaign on YouTube, you are sure to get some serious commentary. And because it's all anonymous, there's no holding anyone back. Similarly, getting rejected by a journalist offline for a pitching a story simply means hearing a dial tone. With bloggers online, rejection could mean slander with your dirty laundry thrown out for all to see.
Why should you consider taking public relations online? Well, when you're offline, unless there's a crisis involving your brand overtaking the media, there's little consumers can say negatively about your brand to those outside their immediate circles. Online however, is a whole different board game. Consumers can post negative comments for the free viewing (and forwarding!) of thousands of people they don't know, from the other side of the world - the reach with online word-of-mouth is so much greater than you could ever imagine. Taking public relations online really is just plain common sense.
When taking public relations online, one of the first steps you should take is an environmental analysis - find out what's already out there about your brand and company. If you're lucky, there'll be nothing. If you're blessed by all the spirits and gods and then some, it'll only be seriously good stuff. However, if you've been cursed by the devil's spawn, look on the bright side - at least you know that the problem exists and can now take steps to fix it (aka reputation management).
Also remember to make all news readily available with public relations online; finding the news should be made into child's play for bloggers and online journalists. This means exploiting optimization tactics and corporate blogs amongst other things.
Finally, and probably most importantly, public relations online cannot and must not be your sole focus. It must be part of a well-planned and carefully executed marketing strategy that employs just the right mix of tools and tactics. You don't always have to run big campaigns as often, the best course of action for public relations online is the smallest one.
All companies, big and small, should invest in some Public Relations, as building reputation and credibility in the best of times gives you a leg to stand on in the worst of times. If you don't have enough dosh for your own in-house gurus, and don't fully trust your computer technician's people skills, seriously consider taking your business to an outside provider.
For more information about taking public relations online, contact us. You can also download our EBook or register for a free online analysis report.