PR strategies used by organisations have had to gradually evolve, starting with the more ‘traditional’ platforms such as print media and have subsequently incorporated radio and television (Mahoney, 2013). However in the last ten years the spread of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the form of the Internet and internet-capable devices have drastically changed PR strategies (Norton, 2013). This is not to say that traditional platforms of PR are no longer being used; magazines, newspapers and posters (such as those found in a bus) still form an integral part of a PR strategy in advertising an event or person. However, with the proliferation of digital technology; people with access to ICTs can quickly and easily obtain information (Norton, 2013). Therefore, PR strategies have incorporated this technology into their campaigns; for example the use of a QR code on a wine bottle that, once scanned, takes a person to the wine manufacturer’s website. This shows one of the benefits of a digital PR strategy; it is simple, i.e. there was very little work done on behalf of the company and the audience to connect with each other (Norton, 2013). Now, if this person likes the wine, he or she may tweet about it or post something on Facebook. This highlights another aspect of digital PR; it is semi-self sustaining, i.e. the company’s audience is promoting the wine rather than the company doing so (Norton, 2013). Whilst this has been around for a while (word of mouth) ICT’s have seen the flow of information between people (or devices) far faster than before (Tench & Yeomans, 2009). In doing so, information is able to reach audiences that the company cannot, or hadn’t thought of. Another area where change has occurred is: through ICT, the internet grants PR officers access to greater amounts of data, whether it has been collected by another company or the organisation commissions a company to collect it for them. However, the PR agency must ensure that it understands the latest privacy laws and handles any and all data it receives ethically (Mahoney, 2013).
The increasingly easy access to information available via smartphones, tablets and computers has seen a shift in people’s reading habits; people spend more time reading electronic technology than ever before (Liu, 2005). This has lead to a change in the way information is read and understood, something that must be taken into account by PR officers in order to successfully target their publics (Mahoney, 2013). A way to review this is via Heatmaps, technology that helps to understand how a person behaves online and in doing so, allows a organisation (via their PR consultants or department) to better understand their audience. This highlights how valuable digital technology is, in that it can be used to effectively evaluate how information reaches people (Mahoney, 2013).
By understanding how digital technology works, its interconnectedness and the behavioural patterns of those online, politicians are, and have been, able to better promote both their message and that of their party. One of the best examples in recent history was the use of social media by Barack Obama in the 2008 US presidential election (Rutledge, 2013). By using social media Barack Obama was able to connect with people via Twitter and Facebook and did so in a way that allowed whatever information he gave out to move quickly between people/devices (Williamson, Miller & Fallon, 2010). In doing so, he was able to quickly bring issues to the attention of the general public. The general public then spread this message, via social media, to more people, allowing for the campaign to become self-sustaining. However, more traditional platforms, i.e. newspapers, were still used because people trust printed material more than they do what is online (Liu, 2005).
Liu, Z. (2005). Reading behaviour ini the digital environment: Changes in reading behaviour over the past ten years. Journal of Documentation, 61(6), 700-712. Retrieved from www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister.
Mahoney, J. (2013). Public Relations Writing (2nd ed.). Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.
Norton, T. (2013). Social Media Strategies for Advocacy and Targeted Communications: A simple and easy-to-follow guide that civil society organisations and individuals can use to improve their ability in the use of social media strategies. Retrieved from University of Canberra E-Reserve.
Rutledge, P. (2013). How Obama Won the Social Media Battle in the 2012 Presidential Campaign. The Media Psychology Blog. Retrieved from http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/25/how-obama-won-the-social-media-battle-in-the-2012-presidential-campaign/
Tench, R., & Yeomans L (2009). Exploring Public Relations. Essex, Engalnd: Pearson Education Limited
Williamson, A., Miller, L., & Fallon, F. (2010). Behind the Digital Campaign: An exploration of the use, impact and regulation of digital campaigning. Retrieved from University of Canberra E-Reserve.