Effectively Communicating in Today's Web-Enabled World
Searls, Tom, THE JOURNAL RECORD
The public relations professional's traditional practice of going through the established "editorial gatekeeper system" to disseminate information and generate interest in a client's product or service, is today challenged by an entirely new online environment.
Now, online communicators can directly reach your customers. And that's really one of the great things about the Internet. If you spend the time looking, you will find the perfect person your message is intended for.
Today, online public relations has evolved from a wide "broadcast to anyone who'll listen" discipline to a highly targeted one-to-one communications process. For example, should Acme Shoes run a broad- brushed online image campaign for a new marathon running shoe or, should they conduct a personalized search to find every relevant Web site, discussion and news group that directly reaches serious runners? Well, the latter -- delivering the message directly to your target -- is a key advantage to today's online communications.
So where should you start with online communications? Start with your company's Web site and perform a communications audit to evaluate your current on-line presence. An online audit evaluates the likely acceptance of your site and your messages. Audits can include market analysis, target audience identification, marketing goals implementation, technology evaluation, competitive analysis, a content audit and site upgrade and enhancement recommendations.
Gather competitor information and conduct research to solicit reactions to your products or services. Millions of Web pages and online offerings compete with the messages you are sending. Or worse, they might communicate against your messages.
An online audit lets you find out what the market environment is like before you spend time and money to publicize your products or services.
Update your Web site content constantly. The Web is an interactive medium that builds relationships with individuals. You need to nourish that relationship regularly through the information and fresh content you provide.
Developing online content -- is and should be -- the job of trained writers and designers. It is not a task for a webmaster or committees. Your content should be presented clearly, persuasively and in logical chunks that require creative wordsmithing and presentation skills. Your goal should be to position your site and its content as a key resource that your target audiences will bookmark and continually use for future reference.
Next, be sure that your "proactive" on-line communication to various news outlets, targeted sites, and chat rooms is simple, timely, newsworthy, defined and flexible (adapt your messages and media to your audiences). …