Public relations (PR) as defined by Pembroke (2013), is vital to effective communication, being the “deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain a mutual understanding between an organisation or individual and its publics”.

Digital platforms have changed PR strategies as they give organisations further tools to engage with their audience. They grant self-publishing rights and give organisations the opportunity to ‘own’ their media channels. Organisations no longer have to rely on traditional media coverage through media entities to reach their audience (Pembroke 2013), which signifies a great cost reduction too. There are minimal distribution limits to digital platforms: information can spread rapidly and interaction can be achieved instantly.

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Image credit: Pop Results
Information can be shared and interaction can be achieved at the click of a button.

Digital platforms facilitate digital storytelling, where an organisation can be an observer, participator, researcher, facilitator, curator and storyteller (Burgess & Vivienne 2013). Digital storytelling is the fastest way to achieve mass communication, as organisations are able to observe the interplay, agreements and disagreements of their audience. It allows for active and passive research, as organisations are able to both ask and learn about their audience (Blank 2010). This is also similar to the way journalism has evolved in the digital world. Journalists are no longer reporting to a passive audience, as readers are able to engage with the content to become a participator, researcher and curator, not only an observer.

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Brisbane-based online clothing store, Black Milk Clothing, encourages customers to post photos on Instagram, wearing their clothing purchase and utilising a corresponding hashtag. Black Milk then links (and curates) these posts to their website, so potential buyers can readily see what their pieces look like on other customers.

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British makeup brand, Illamasqua, utilises a YouTube account to publish video tutorials using their makeup. This shows their customers practical and creative uses for their products and gives Illamasqua the opportunity to listen to feedback and interact with their audience.

Digital is different as the interaction happens extremely quickly and publicly. Any delay in communication can have a negative impact on the audience, and as Norton (2013) suggests, an internal approval system for digital correspondence is ill-fitted to the speed at which digital operates. Organisations, therefore, need to be properly equipped and responsive concerning their digital presence.

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Hertz have social media staff employed 24/7 to focus on customer enquiries, compliments and complaints received via Twitter.

Digital is also different as the reach and level of engagement can be measured via data in terms of effectiveness. Pembroke (2013) states “analytics on websites show how long people stayed on the page, where they visited from, if comments were left and what other pages they visited”. Therefore, the success of an organisation’s digital engagement aims, objectives and outcomes can be evaluated through the: reach – the number of people who saw the message; interest – the number of people interested enough to engage in some way (share, like, comment); and influence ­– the number of people driven to take secondary action (e.g. sign a petition or enter a competition) (Norton 2013).

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Birdsong, a social media reconnaissance tool, displays an insight into the success of Redbull’s Facebook engagement.

Digital platforms can interact with non-digital platforms where the audience is driven from the non-digital, to the digital, via a call to action. A good example is through a QR (quick reference) code – a two-dimensional barcode that is a visual representation of a web address. Organisations can utilise non-digital platforms such as product packaging to drive customers to engage with the brand online – continuing the storytelling.

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Coca-Cola (Coke) German cans were printed with a QR code that referred customers to their Spring campaign webpage, where Coke planned to release details of exclusive, one-time only, music shows in German cities.

Digital newspapers are also a different example of digital interacting with the non-digital. Online versions of newspapers and entirely digital newspapers are becoming more common. For example, Guardian Australia is a solely digital newspaper.

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Guardian Australia puts their readers at the “heart of what they do” and encourages suggestions, corrections, clarification, engagement and debate.

Overall, digital platforms drive organisations to reconsider how they communicate. Digital has evolved PR strategies through granting organisations effective avenues to market their content, measure their success and adjust their approach to remain relevant to the audience.

References

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