Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Growing Power of Internet-Driven Public Relations
By Alan Caruba
I doubt that most people realize how public relations has increased its power to influence since the growth the Internet had in the 1990s and which continues today. Literally millions of new web sites are added to the Net every week. They represent the most extraordinary way to target one’s audience on the Net and via mainstream media outlets.
Today’s journalists, radio and television news producers and editors now all prefer to receive news via email and to instantly access web sites to secure the facts. The pressures of a 24/7-news cycle require such access and one site, Yearbook.com, instantly puts journalists in touch with experts on thousands of topics. Dedicated sites provide credibility to individuals, profit and non-profit organizations by staying up to date with news and commentary on issues and events that affect them.
Then, too, the news and opinion web sites have become independently influential, often breaking stories that are then picked up by the mainstream press. CNSnews.com, which specializes in news from a conservative point of view, routinely both breaks and makes news. Conversely, Salon.Com, offering a more liberal point of view, is struggling these days as public opinion continues to shift.
The result is an astonishing flow of information and opinion undreamed of in the days when I was a young journalist in the 1960s. Then, only the phone for an interview and a few books or files of yellowing clips in the newspaper’s library provided the quotes and facts necessary to write a story against deadline. It wasn’t called "the morgue" for nothing!
There has also been growth of mainstream print and broadcast media outlets, literally numbering in the tens of thousands. While daily newspapers have lost circulation, they still remain viable and all maintain their own web sites. New magazines seem to debut every week. Talk radio is enjoying a burst of success undreamed of only a decade ago. The choice of network and cable television programs provides still more public relations outlets.
For me, however, the success of a public relations program comes as the result of carefully targeting those Internet and mainstream media outlets that reach an intended audience and/or market. In that manner, the message can successfully compete amidst the deluge of news and commentary from which to choose. Every enterprise must have their own dedicated web site. It is the key element in public relations today.
Timing, too, is essential. There are still "slow news" days and knowing when to provide less than earthshaking news can yield dividends. A sense of humor helps as well, plus the willingness to be creative, coming up with programs that will generate coverage. It helps to be lucky and not bump up against some breaking news event that will preclude yours.
It’s useful as well to be realistic and realize that not everyone is waiting to hear or read your news.
It is essential, however, to be absolutely relentless in putting your news into the stream that flows 24/7.
Even if it does not always get coverage, it does put the name of your company, organization, product, service or issue in front of editors and reporters, giving it credibility the next time it shows up on their computer monitor. There is always a breakthrough point that initiates routine coverage. It can often take up to six months to a year for "a new face" to begin to make progress. This must be accompanied at all times with virtually instant response to any media inquiry. The more accessible you are, the more action you get!
Clients of mine have received a call before and been on major television news programs by the same day. Even I have found myself doing live radio simply because I picked up the phone!
My weekly commentaries routinely reach a potential audience of millions of readers.
The real power of public relations lies in a consistent effort, accessibility, and knowing where to "place" the story. That is why it has developed into a profession in its own right. It is also the difference between a web site that is designed to deliver that news up front and to provide ease of navigation to supportive, archived data. These days there is plenty of skilled talent to design web sites.
While advertising is a guarantor of getting your message where you want it, public relations is the "background music" that supports and augments it.
Abraham Lincoln said it best. "Public sentiment is everything. With it nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed."
Because of the huge role the media plays in our lives, public relations has gained in importance. Literally no business, no profession, no organization, no products, no services, no advocacy of any kind, can succeed without the implementation of public relations supported by an effective Internet site.