1. Web Viewers Are Becoming Web Participants
We're seeing a dramatic change in how people are using the Internet, and it's pretty exciting. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project in a February 2004 report, 44% of all Internet users have now created online content through creating or posting on Web sites, creating blogs or discussing topics on online message boards. Even more important is the fact that eight in ten people we’d classify as "key influencers" have posted online.
The Internet has come of age. Since it's inception, it's been primarily a one-way street, with most users simply reading and reviewing content online. Now, it's being used by consumers as a two-way information community, with folks creating and posting new content on a variety of topics.
What does this mean for public relations? It means that key influencers will wield more power online through blogs and message boards. We'll need to foster relationships with them on behalf of our clients. It also means that there will be more content discussing our clients (both good and bad) online that we as PR professionals will need to discover, review and respond to.
2. Breaking through the email clutter is tough.
eMarketer's E-mail Marketing Report predicts that email volume will hit 3 trillion by the end of 2007. It is going to become more and more difficult for companies to reach customers online through ethical, legitimate and appropriate email marketing.
For companies (and individuals) to "break through the clutter," they must be perceived as a “trusted source” of information. Where I might not open up even a legitimate marketing email addressed from Cingular, for example, I may open up the same forwarded email from my buddy Steve because I perceive him as a trusted source.
What does this mean for public relations? We must remember that journalists receive spam, too. Lots of it – their email addresses appear in printed publications and online. Public relations professionals must make sure that reporters see them as "trusted sources" and open up the emails we send to them.
3. Reporters Google, too.
Reporters aren't using LEXIS/NEXIS and proprietary research tools as much anymore. They're "Googleing" just like you and me. So, what happens when they Google a story angle or company that we're pitching to them. Have you checked? Is it the key messages you want to present?
What does this mean for public relations? We need to be cognizant of what comes up in search engine listings when consumers, as well as journalists search for information on our clients. And we need to manage misinformation that often appears online.
4. Blogs are big
Blogs are bigger than big. They’re huge. 11% of Web users regularly read the blogs and diaries of other Internet users. Blogs are quickly becoming an integral information resource for all online audiences, but especially among key influencers and other heavy users of the Internet.
What does this mean for public relations? Blogs enable "participatory journalism." They enable professional journalists to directly interact with their readers, and they enable laypeople to easily share their thoughts and opinions with millions online through the click of a mouse. As more people continue to blog and search engines incorporate blog content in their search databases, public relations professionals must recognize that our current, narrow definition of "journalist" is changing.
5. There are a lot of people online
63% of U.S. adults and 461 million people worldwide are online, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Nielsen//NetRatings. But here are some other interesting statistics about online users:
- While 461 million people worldwide are considered "online," only 300 million are considered "active online"
- The average person worldwide viewed 58 different Web sites and 1,013 individual Web pages in May 2004, spending a little over 24 hours on their PC during the month.
- Parents are more wired than non-parents and are more likely to use the Web for health information, for their work or training, and for getting religious information.
- Asian Americans who speak English are more experienced and more active Internet users than whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans. Asian-Americans are the heaviest daily users of the Internet, and are the most likely to have fully integrated the Web into their daily lives.
- 22% of Americans 65 and older use the Internet.
What does this mean for public relations? It means that the Internet is continuing to be an essential information and communications tool for a burgeoning number of consumers both in the U.S. as well as worldwide. We as PR practitioners need to be cognizant of this fact and integrate online communications plans into every one of our projects for our clients.