Anyone who has studied public relations or communication in college or worked in the field knows that the foundation of all PR is built on the knowledge of your client, its various constituencies or audiences, how you intend to reach them and with what message. You learn the various avenues for reaching your target audiences: newspapers, magazines, broadcast television, etc., and you learn how you might work with and use those mediums. But, when you enter and work in PR like I did recently, you’re confronted with even more demands on your understanding of different mediums for interacting with audiences, beyond those traditional targets.
Interactive media and what we here call "digital advocacy," is the main thrust behind the latest big wave in new media. Blogs, podcasts and the like have taken the communications industry and the internet by storm and have forced not only reporters and other members of the media to learn how to accommodate these new mediums, but also PR people. Since we PR folks are frequently charged by our clients with connecting them with media members, it is our job to not only understand how to utilize these new tools, as well as the old or traditional, but utilize them in a way that works in our and our client’s favor.
As a "green" professional, relatively new to the field, this is a huge challenge. Not only must we learn the ways of PR in the traditional sense, but we must take into account these new methods of communicating and the completely different strategic and tactical implications and questions they bring into play on a daily program.
As of today, Technorati is tracking the daily updates of 17* million blogs (* I must not that when I wrote this Technorati was tracking 16 million blogs, and two weeks later they are now tracking 17 which clearly shows the rapid growth of blogs as a communications tool). That’s huge! That number only grows when you factor in the audiences viewing, reading and, more importantly, interacting via blogs by way of comments, trackbacks and postings of their own. In a recent survey (pdf) conducted by Comscore, it was found that nearly 50 million Americans, or about 30 percent of the total U.S. Internet population, visited blogs in Q1 2005. This represents an increase of 45 percent compared to Q1 2004! Clearly, there is a lot of steam behind these numbers and we all expect them to keep growing.
So, what is the best way to wrap your brain around all of these different communication methods when you’re just starting out? What has worked best for me thus far is attempting to become a news junkie. That means reading whatever you can, whenever you can: newspapers, magazines and blogs. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the different styles of writing, topical approaches and interests of each. Learning to differentiate is key to your development in the writing of pitches, proposals, abstracts, and anything else you’re required to construct and personalize for a specific media outlet.
The bright side of all of this is that if you’re just starting out in PR now, you’re coming in at a great time. Interactive media has already started to change the communications models for many companies, but is still in its infancy in terms of the impact it can have on business and PR, as well as the breadth to which it will continue to expand.
Sometimes mainstream media outlets get overly caught up in jargon that the "average" reader doesn’t understand, but blogs seem to have come to the rescue with, in most cases, their synthesized breakdown of information. The reliability of blogs is still debatable, but they’re increasingly taking away readership of the mainstream press’ offerings. As a young PR professional, it’s tough to ignore this latest trend, so find your favorite blogs and subscribe to those RSS feeds. What’s an RSS Feed? Now that’s another story all together…
– Ryan Lack