The practice of public relations in the Information Age has changed irrevocably. Digital media has altered the way we distribute press releases, respond to crises and promote organizations.
In the past, creating and distributing a press release involved wire transfer services such as PR Newswire, AP newswire, etc. We now send press releases via email as well as wire services, and social media releases are becoming more common as they permit the public relations person to embed media into the press release. Knowing how to use search engine optimization, hashtags and keywords that increase the visibility of the press release, is now a valuable skill.
Crises erupt and the news can go viral via YouTube videos, tweets, and Facebook posts. Consumers have become empowered by access to digital media and social media channels that permit them to share their good and bad experiences. Companies often need to respond via social media to quell bad situations before they become full-blown crises and public relations professionals have to monitor social media channels around the clock. Crisis management via social media presents many challenges to the public relations professional. For example, a tweet by Kenneth Cole during the 2011 protests in Cairo created a public relations nightmare for the Kenneth Cole brand.
The public relations department later issued the following tweet in the aftermath of the ’twitter storm’:
To promote an organization, companies now require a website so the organization can tell its story to its shareholders, consumers, businesses and other publics via videos, pictures, press releases and testimonials. Digital media, and specifically the internet, has created the opportunity for organizations to express themselves to a larger audience via informational websites that are easy for people to visit and are available to a national as well as international audience.