An increasing amount of money is being spent by firms on the internet – whether that is on producing a consumer-friendly website or advertising products on the web – yet there is much more to think about than just presenting products in an attractive light.
Of course, the starting point for a firm's online face is going to be its website, which should be professional, informative and as dynamic as possible. However the way that the internet has developed over the years has meant that there are several other avenues to consider including getting online PR.
Once upon a time…
Where once upon a time a public relations firm would be focused on making sure national newspapers (the dominant medium of communication to the public) presented their clients in a favorable light, now that same challenge must be applied across the whole world wide web.
A PR company cannot hope to control what is said by people on the internet, but the medium is so regularly used by consumers to get advice or find out information that it cannot be ignored as a PR battleground. The key is to be proactive on the web in promoting a positive image and then respond to what is being said about these efforts.
By taking the initiative and planning a big online campaign a firm can pre-emptively gain the favor of any number of potential customers – the internet connects the vast majority of people in Western societies. An online campaign could take the form of a project seeking input from consumers on an issue close to their hearts, or it could simply be a positive activity the brand has sponsored.
The advantages of these projects is that they can be carefully thought out to reflect particular qualities that a brand is seeking to project. On top of this, positive association with good projects can be a subtle way of creating a base layer of attraction to a company, even if it does not prompt people to immediately go out and buy its products.
Social networks, forums and reviews – responses
Once a company has started life online, whether in the shape of various online campaigns or simply through a website, it will immediately need to consider what people are saying about the brand on social networks, forums and reviews. The nature of the internet means that if an issue is left unchecked, then it can snowball until a majority is very upset about something.
Often these issues start out being misunderstandings or misinterpretations, but sometimes they are simply mistakes. Either way, remedial action is necessary straight away if long-term reputational damage is to be avoided; essentially, if a firm can communicate to its critics that it's taking care of whatever went wrong, then negative feeling can be contained.
This is a pivotal issue; it is not just about an error being corrected, it is about an error being seen to be corrected. It is not enough to delete mistakes in the era of online dominance – you need to make sure you shout loud enough about your recovery so that people who have felt slighted (as well as those who have seen you mess up) can see what has been done. Therein lies the importance of online PR.[divider]
Article written by in-house staff of award-winning public relations firm PHA Media .