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Friday, February 17, 2012

Public Relations in the Digital Age

Public relations practitioners for some time now have been able to establish the importance of an effective public relations campaign relative other forms of marketing and promotional activities. Public Relations is not only more effective than other forms of marketing communication and promotional activities but is also relatively cost effective providing users of a public relations strategy a better value. However the ever changing world around us has brought significant challenges to the way in marketing and public relations strategies are planned and how those activities are executed. The rapidly changing nature of digital technology and the level of societies involvement with online and digital technology has meant that in order to compliment offline activities, Public Relations practitioners are faced with a new challenge, which comprises of incorporating an online or digital Public Relations campaign to compliment offline activities.

Offline Public Relations initiatives such as events and activities that involve our desired target audience is not enough, as more and more people are spending time online especially on web platforms supporting social media exchange, it is important to have a strategy in place to seek out and engage our relevant audience and consumers through multiple online and digital tools and channels.

Probably the most significant of these developments in online and digital technology has been the advent of social networking tools and sources of user generated content.  The world's largest social networking platform Facebook has come a long way from its humble origins in Mark Zuckerburg's Harvard dorm room. Today this website has over 500 million users spread all across the world, allowing its users to share information and all kind of content, be it written or audio visual in nature. It was the existence of social media that allowed the revolutions of the Arab Spring to flourish and prosper across the middle east. It is social and online media that is proving to be a huge public relations blessing for some, while a public relations nightmare for others. Social media allows for a very rapid communication of information across users, while at the same time allowing flexibility for user generated feedback and comments. As more and more people around the globe are connected to the internet and have access to online content through internet enabled smart phones, the damage from a negative Public Relations campaign can be result in damage that is significant.

For many of us it will come as no surprise if celebrities or media personalities have had to endure a public relations nightmare as a result of activities taking place online. At the same time a positive and pro active Public Relations campaign online serves as a very useful tool to generate goodwill and brand equity for just not individuals but major corporations incorporating such tools. Many businesses big and small, many brands including low end and high end brands have flourished as a result of an effective online Public Relations strategy.

Another note worthy development in Online technology has been User Generated Content which includes user feedback on websites such as Amazon.com, but also includes websites that allow and facilitate sharing from user to user. Such websites include blogging websites such as Wordpress and Blogspot, and also internet giant Google's Youtube. Blogging sites allow users of online platform to share information and express their views in a relatively unregulated online environment which adds credibility to the content in circulation. Blogs that can be found online cover a wide range of topics to cater to the interests and needs of a very diverse user base online. Youtube also plays a significant role in exchange of information and communication between users as it encompasses the sharing of visual material in the online world. These online platforms and tools are not just sources of effective online public relations, but they can also be used as a source for collecting valuable marketing and business intelligence.

As more and more developments are happening in online and digital technology and more and more people around the globe are ever connected to the digital world, it is important that public relations and marketing practitioners keep up with innovations in trends and technologies so that a competitive advantage is maintained and the strategic initiatives that are executed provide the desired results, outcomes and objectives.

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