I’m still sceptical about the value of PR online. If one was to read all the material about how PR must use the Web these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking “what am I missing?”. Well, I must be missing something.
Blogs, podcasts, social networking, twittering and RSS feeds. Cripes, that’s too much for one traditional PR flack to handle. I dived in a couple of months ago, only to be confronted by a lot of opinion (online and in print) but no hard facts about success.
Apart from screens of text, I’ve read three books on the subject: Public Relations Online (Tom Kelleher), Beyond Buzz (Lois Kelly) and The New Rules of Marketing and PR (David Meerman Scott). They’re all fine works in their own right, but don’t really tell me anything about some new secret to PR online. They generally say its about engagement, the personal touch and reaching specific groups. However, I’ve always practised that anyway.
Yes, web sites are important (particularly online “newsrooms”), as is the monitoring of newsgroups. But Social Media Releases? Facebook? I’ve spent some time on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. It’s time-consuming and for very little stimulation (if you call looking at women with their tounges hanging out stimulating). For the most part it’s people gossiping and posting material that, for the most part, wouldn’t make it to any respected/authoritative site, let alone mainstream media. As for SMRs, as far as I’m aware, the local newsrooms in Australia don’t know what the term is.
Steve Outing (7 June 2007) writing for the respected Poynter.org, cites the case of American PR executive Steve Reubel, who gave up traditional media for a week to see if he’d be well informed by reading weblogs. Reubel discovered he missed out on many major news items.
At the end of the day you still have to realise that despite all the hype, only one person in four on earth is online. Narrow that down to your ethnic audience and the numbers aren’t all that impressive. Outing summarised it for me: “Blogs remain in their infancy, despite the wave of press they’ve received in the last year.”
Outing S. (2007). The blog-only news diet: an experiment in mainstream-media deprivation. http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=66794 (viewed 20 September 2007).