Ranchold et al. (2002) identify four key differences between online PR and traditional PR which are fundamentals of online PR that remain true today.
The audience is connected to organisations
Previously, there was detachment – PR people issued press releases which were distributed over the newswires, picked up by the media, and then published in their outlets.
The communication channels was uni-directioal. The institutions communicated and the audiences consumed the information. Even then communication was considered a two-way process, the institutions has the resources to send information to audiences through a very wide pipeline, while the audiences has only a minuscule pipeline for communicating back to the institutions.
The members of audience are connected to each other
Though publishing their own blogs, social profiles or e-newsletters or contributing to reviews or discussions on others, information can be rapidly distributed from person to person and group to group. Consumers will also have their own conversations about their needs and brands which will shape brand perception and purchase intent.
Today, a company’s activity can be discussed and debated over the internet, with or without the knowledge of the organisation. In the new environment everybody is a communicator,and the institution is just part of the network.
The audience has access to other information
Often, in the past, the communicator was able to make a statement that it would be difficult for the average audience member to challenge – the internet facilitates rapid comparison of statements.
It takes a matter of minutes to access multiple sources of information over the internet. Any statement made can be dissected, analysed, discussed and challenged within hours by interested individuals. In the connected world, information does not exist in the vacuum.
Audiences pull information
Today this is often known as inbound marketing. Previously there were limited channels in terms of television and press. Today there are many sources and channels of information – this makes it more difficult for messages to be seen.
Until recently, television offered only a few channels. People communicated with one another by post and by phone. In these conditions, it was easy for a public relations practitioner to make a message stand out.
For marketer or PR professional, managing PR, the main differences are:
Less easy to control
There are many more places a brand can be discussed online, such as in blogs and forums, compared to traditional media where there are smaller number of media outlets with news filtered through journalists and other editorial staff.
More options to create their own stories
Since a company will have its own site, press centre, feeds and blogs, it is possible to bypass other media owners to some extent. Many companies have now created a ‘social media newsroom’.
Need for faster response
It is often said that ‘bad news travel fast’. This has been facilitated online and a ‘blogstorm’ can sson arise where many bloggers are critical of brand’s action. Rapid response teams are needed. Some brands have created a social media command centre as part of social media governance process based on social media listening. To see examples of social media governance policies in range of sectors, visit socialmediagovernance.com.
Easier to monitor
Since Google and online reputation management tools index many pages, it is arguably easier to identify when brand is discussed online.
Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.