Online PR or online public relations (also known as digital PR) is a form of public relations in which organizational stakeholders are not communicated via traditional media (such as radio or print media), but via the Internet . Strategic online PR includes the communication activities of organizations (such as companies, non-profit organizations, authorities or parties) on the Internet, which serve to coordinate actions with internal and external stakeholders and to clarify interests. In the understanding of some practitioners, online PR is also understood to mean creating publicity for websites and blogs . If online PR primarily relates to online social media , the term social media relations is also used in practice .
In the special case of online press work , company information is distributed to online editorial offices, press portals and web directories ( blog , link , web feed directories). Classic press work is changing with online PR. Like any PR, online PR should also help ensure that an organization, news, specialist article or project is perceived and valued by the public. In online PR, however, the public is no longer viewed as a simple consumer. Instead, it uses comments, reviews and much more to create. the content and thus increases the credibility of the statements made.
Basic functions of online PR
Online PR is intended to represent an organization or an individual externally via online channels and convey their goals and official perspectives. Accordingly, PR strategists can be viewed as workers who specialize in communicating and presenting arguments and who use rhetorical strategies to achieve specific goals.
In the context of online PR, as in public relations outside of online channels, a distinction is made between various disciplines: financial PR (communication of business reports and corporate strategies), consumer and lifestyle PR (dissemination of a certain product or service) , Crisis communication , internal communication , lobbying and media work .
The establishment and maintenance of relationships with entities that can influence organizations and individuals forms a central role in public relations. In the field of online PR, these relationships exist, for example, in online editorial offices, bloggers or page administrators of large groups in social networks. In each discipline of online PR, typical activities are set, such as media events , press releases, newsletters, blog posts, social media posts and much more.
Information of the reference groups
In the context of online PR, the Internet is used as a distribution channel, for example to distribute press releases, annual reports or other PR products at low cost. The multimedia processing of PR products (e.g. from customer magazines) can create a higher experience value or a great depth of information.
A basic task of online PR is to provide information that is relevant for the reference group ( stakeholder ): for employees, journalists, investors, neighbors, but also for (potential) customers. To this end, organizations can start monological or dialog-oriented communication or participate in third-party communication.
A fundamental technique is the identification of the target group and the adaptation of the information to the audience. Sometimes different target groups require the adaptation of several, complementary messages. Researching the target group is of particular importance for online PR, as online channels hold a range of information about interested parties (profile information, user behavior on publications) that can be used for the following PR work.
Since the Internet is often the first port of call when someone is looking for information - for example about a company, a product or an association - online PR is becoming increasingly important. The aim is to make the information relevant to them available to the reference groups at any time and up-to-date. For this purpose, special topic or target group portals are often set up within websites. Occasionally, websites on specific specialist topics are prepared on so-called microsites, i.e. separate from the company website.
It is important that the company profile is presented online in a way that is appropriate (avoidance of bright colors, orderly text structure), but that the company's own corporate identity is not lost.
Dialogue with the reference groups
In addition to one-sided monological communication (i.e. the provision of information), online PR can also establish or support a dialogue with reference groups. For example, the Internet can be a communication channel with feedback options as part of a multi-media PR campaign and supplement other PR tools. However, it is also possible to maintain a dialogue with reference groups mainly on the Internet. Traditionally, this is done in forums or guest books. Since around 2005, there has been intensive discussion in PR research about changes to the public due to social media (e.g. weblogs , video sites, social networks , microblogging ). Newer strategies of online PR include strategies to communicate in the pre-media space created by social media. The decisive factor is whether it is possible to create benefits and build relationships there. This consideration goes hand in hand with a changed understanding of PR in general: PR is seen here primarily as an investment in reputation capital, less as a direct marketing instrument. Typical measures of online PR in the pre-media space are corporate blogs , the creation of your own communities or fan sites within large social networks (such as Facebook ) or channels on video platforms.
In digital marketing, technologies and tools from the Internet (search engines, social bookmarks , new media , blogs, social media marketing ) are used to disseminate information, communicate and also to attract customers. This form of interactive PR communication can be used by companies to disseminate information outside of the usual channels and to communicate directly with target groups. A large part of digital marketing is the use of social networks (social media marketing). The emergence of new technologies on the Internet brought about a rethink in the PR industry, which previously concentrated on classic media such as TV, radio and magazines and had to take a completely new direction with the new channels. Digital marketing can thus be seen as an extension and further development of the basic techniques in PR. The advancement of digital technologies, for example the use of smartphones to access the Internet, visit online shops, make appointments, study and read the news, requires constant adaptation in this area.
Under litigation PR means the public relations in the proceedings in which the communication is controlled within the framework of legal battles. This form of press work has been practiced in continental Europe since 2001 and has since focused specifically on online channels such as social media. Visual instruments are also used in the context of professionalized visual legal communication.
Training and teaching
PR online and cross-media is taught today at universities and technical colleges. Training is also possible in voluntary work in companies or agencies. In July 2010, there were eleven PR master’s courses in Germany , three of them at universities, five at universities of applied sciences and three extra-occupational programs in which online PR is increasingly playing a role.
In addition to a degree in a course with an explicit PR-reference and a subsequent internship or trainee program, various entry and qualification paths are available, especially for university graduates, but also for career changers from other professional fields. You can take a part-time master’s course in Leipzig at the Leipzig School of Media . In order to make the offers comparable, several institutions were brought into being for the purpose of certification, including the Academy for Communication Management eV and the Testing and Certification Organization of the German Communication Industry (PZOK), which is run by the three major communication associations, the Federal Association of German Press Spokespersons , the German Public Relations Society and Society of Public Relations Agencies was established.
Qualification opportunities are also offered in compact seminars (e.g. by the German Institute for Public Relations eV ), part-time courses (e.g. by the Munich Journalist Academy or the German Press Academy ) or as a distance learning course.
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- Werner Bogula: Guide to online PR (PR practice). Constance 2007 (UVK). ISBN 978-3896695932 .
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- See: Zerfaß / Pleil 2012, p. 47.
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- What is online PR? (White paper) (PDF document, status 2019)