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How The Internet Has Changed Public Relations

Of all the communication disciplines, public relations has arguably evolved the most since the inception of the World Wide Web. It has significantly altered the news delivery system and the way in which news is consumed. Receiving press coverage is no longer tied to making countless phone calls to engage journalists and editors in order to get your story published or broadcast over the evening news.

Today, communications professionals can instantly find new media contacts online, and rely on email and social media to quickly establish and nurture these relationships in the hopes their story will go viral. They now have real-time access to a highly engaged audience and an unprecedented ability to target people via their preferred communication vehicle.

However, like most change, there are pros and cons to PR’s online evolution. Below we consider a few.

Pro: Speed

We don’t wait to get the news around the water cooler anymore—it gets delivered instantly via our tablets, desktops, smartphones and more. Today’s marketing and PR executives have the ability to instantly share their news and content across the Internet in a matter of minutes.

 

Con: Speed

Fact-checking is certainly not what it used to be. In their race to break the story first, many journalists (and non-journalists) will publish stories, press releases and content without verifying sources, corroborating stories and fact-checking interviews. Sometimes they do so intentionally, knowing a webmaster can quickly correct a sentence—or five—and push live within a matter of minutes.

Pro: Content

In an age where the majority of business buyers are researching their purchase online before making it, the need for relevant content is greater than ever before. PR’s ability to strategically place this  content for public consumption has grown stronger with access to a variety of delivery vehicles and format options.

Con: Content

The definition of “content” varies by author. In order to feed insatiable social media engines, today’s marketers are pumping out content as fast as humanly possible. So it’s no surprise that not all content is created equal. Oftentimes some “content” can be viewed as company propaganda or is publicly available information presented to be breaking news or proprietary data.

Pro: Reach

The Internet has made it possible for a communications professional—or anyone with an Internet connection—to instantly push news out to the entire world. As a result, the number of news outlets has grown exponentially. Once saddled with a fair amount of research to find appropriate outlets, PR practitioners have thousands of delivery vehicles available at their fingertips.

Con: Reach

Competition for share of voice is tougher than ever. With a vast range of news outlets to choose from—and more popping up daily—marketing and PR execs need to select their channels carefully. They need to hone their messages in order to break through the clutter.

Pro: Engagement

The fact that our society has grown to depend on the Internet for news has resulted in a highly engaged audience. No longer waiting to hear the news on nightly broadcast television, radio or read in traditional publications, today’s consumers are actively seeking information 24/7. This provides communications professionals with unprecedented real-time access to a vibrant audience.

Con: Engagement

Today’s social media networks provide Internet users with the power to engage with individuals and organizations—in both positive and negative ways. In a matter of minutes they can discredit a company, share negative photos and videos of an individual, or write unfavorable reviews. Marketing and PR professionals are challenged to both encourage engagement among today’s consumers and to monitor activity to mitigate bad press.

There is little doubt that the Internet has changed PR for the better. Organizations now have the power to instantly share their company news and content around the world.  But it’s the responsibility of modern PR pros to ensure the communications used to build relationships with consumers are equally compelling—and accurate.