One of the primary uses of the Internet is for communication through, email, information delivery, and research opportunities. It is important that PR professionals take advantage of its worldwide reach and its extensive access to audiences.
A blog tracking organization called Technorati, estimated in 2007 that there are about 61 million blogs and about 175,000 being created each day. Many bloggers are amateurs, but others have risen in prominence and have a large following. Political candidates are an example, they have recognized the power of influential bolggers and use them in the same way they use mainstream media. It is important for Public Relations personnel to monitor weblogs that reach large numbers of consumers to make sure the information being talked about is true. This gives the organization a chance to set the record straight or place positive information about the organization. They also allow PR people to know what the public is talking about and the latest trends that could affect the success in their particular industry.
RSS feeds work well when PR practitioners are monitoring blogs because they are notified through the RSS feed anytime a particular blog is updated. This way they can make sure they are always up to date.
People use social media to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media itself. Social media can take many different forms including text, images, audio, and video. Social media gives PR professionals the opportunity to harness the human urge to relate to each other and to create or assemble compelling content that is shared with others.
Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)
Blackberries, iPhones, smartphones and pocket PCs provide portable management of traditional information such as email, calendars, tasks, and contacts. They also off web browsing and instant messaging capabilities. These PDAs greatly enhance the productiveness and efficiency of any PR professional.
Most organizations are now posting SMTs, news feeds, and online news conferences on the Internet to reach a large audience through continuous audio and video. This is called web casting and allows journalist to cover an organization easier and get the information they need. “We did one press conference where almost nobody showed up; we did a live stream onto the web and we had dozen’s of reporters watching it,” said Marc Wein, President of Murray Hill Studios in New York.
PR practitioners play a major role in resolving a crisis for an organization. A crisis situation puts tremendous pressure on organizations to respond with concrete and thorough information as fast as possible. Experts say, how an organization responds in the first 24 hours usually determines whether the situation remains an “incident” or whether it becomes a full-blown crisis. This pressure falls to the PR practitioner, who needs to be prepared to deal with incidents and potential crisis. Part of the role of a PR practitioner is to prevent a conflict from arising in the first place and to be prepared for the worst by using environmental scanning and issues management. If the situation does turn into a crisis a PR practitioner will implicate the crisis management plan. The PR practitioner may also employ strategies to assist in negotiation or arbitration efforts. In the aftermath of a crisis the PR practitioner is responsible for restoring the organizations reputation through reputation management. PR people do not necessarily “solve” crises, instead they help create a favorable resolution for all people involved.
The three most important things a PR person can do during a crisis are:
1) Take responsibility for solving the problem and respond with accurate information within the first 24 hours of the situation.
2) Choose a communication strategy that is appropriate for the particular organization. Below is Coomb’s list of crisis communication strategies that an organization may use:
- Attack the accuser
- Corrective action
- Full apology
3) Communicate consistently and professionally during the crisis. This can be done by putting the public first, being honest, designating a single spokesperson, and being accessible.
If handled well, a crisis can be good for an organization. For example, the Tylenol Crisis in 1982. They reacted in a way that was consistent with their mission statement and is now a respected example of effective crisis management. Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol resulting in a loss of $100 million. They took responsibility, even though it was not their fault, and reintroduced the product with safer packaging. This proved to the public Johnson & Johnson was committed to public safety no matter the cost, which has ultimately enhanced the brand’s image. This story is also a good demonstration of the three strategies above.
Agenda-Setting Hypothesis vs. Uses and Gratifications Theory
Agenda-Setting Hypothesis says that media content sets the agenda for public discussion. For example people start conversations by bringing up what they heard on the news or saw on the front page of the Newspaper. It raises the idea that through the media’s selection of stories and headlines, the media tells the public what to think about, but not necessarily what to think.
Uses and Gratifications Theory grants power to the individual audience members and states the audience can have an influence on the media. According to the theory, media consumers have free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will affect them. Uses and gratification is the optimist’s view of the media because the theory rules out the possibility that the media can have an unconscious influence over our lives and how we view the world.
The relationship between the Agenda-Setting Hypothesis and the Uses and gratification theory can be seen in cases such as personal music selection. We select music not only to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or other socially conscience motives. There are many different types of music and we choose from them to fulfill a particular need, just as we choose media according to the Uses and gratification theory. The Agenda-Setting hypothesis can be seen in music played on the radio, or music played in a store you are shopping in. You cannot help but to listen and think about the music being played, just as you cannot help but to hear the news and notice the front-page story. This could be agenda-setting on the artist’s part, the particular radio station, or the store; because they too are trying to fulfill a particular need, fit a particular mood, show empowerment or other socially conscience motives.
What makes these two different is who gets credit for the thoughts. In agenda-setting the media chose your thoughts. In uses and gratification the individual chose their own thoughts.
PR Practitioners Role in These Two Theories:
- Agenda-Setting Hypothesis- The media can actually set the agenda for public relations topics and stories. It is the goal of PR professionals to get their subject on the media agenda.
- Uses and Gratification Theory-The individual can set the agenda for the public relations topics and stories. The PR professional wants to reach the individuals need for information vs. satisfying the gatekeeper at the particular media outlet. The problem with this is the PR practitioner needs to satisfy the gatekeeper, so their story is made public to a large audience. This is how corruption can occur and PR professionals ethics come into play.