Online public relations in practices 1
Running Head: ONLINE PUBLIC RELATIONS IN PRACTICES
Online public relations in practices
University of Nicosia
In partial fulfillment of the requirements for Comm – 514 Public Relations Theory
Instructor‟s name: Tao Papaioannou
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Public relations are the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics. Public serve a wide variety of organizations such as businesses, government agencies and religious and educational institutions. The relationships built are between the and employees, customers, local communities, shareholders and other organizations. PR agencies advise management at all levels in company policies and decisions. They research, conduct and evaluate programs to inform the public of the company's accomplishments. They analyze and anticipate the public opinion and attitudes that have an effect on the organization. Public relations is about building reputations, developing relationships, creating positive images and informing and persuading people.
In recent years, the Internet has evolved into a communication network that many individuals have come to rely on. As technology advances, the internet is used as a promotional, advertising, educational, profitable, information and entertainment tool for the public.
Public relations practitioners have turned to the use of the internet in great proportions over the past several years. The internet has become one of the most public relations tools available.
In order to understand how PR practitioners work with the internet, we have to understand what literature reviews talk about regarding the foundations created between the internet and public relations.
1. Public Relations and the Internet
PR is one of the most important performers in marketing. Relations with media and journalists can have a strong influence on the image of an organization among publics. When using technology in PR, e.g. media, the aim should be focused on getting the job done quickly and as easily as possible. This is one of the rare where a company can simultaneously perform better and at a lower cost with the use internet related technologies, the costs of reaching journalists are much lower than classical ways of communication.
The Internet offers several advantages when compared to the other media such
as speed of communication, almost immediate product delivery, interactivity,
customization and personalization; it can improve productivity, efficiency and issues
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management. The Internet also provides an ideal forum for group communication and interaction (Ashcroft, 2001, Macintosh, 2000, Sallot, 2004).
It has dramatically changed the way public relations practitioners distribute information, interact with key publics, deal with crises, and manage issues (Hallahan, 2004).
2. What is the function in the practice of public relations?
Four functions are often distinguished in the practice of public relations: analysis, plan, action and evaluation (see e.g. Witmer, 2000). These functions have even been characterized as steps, even though their relationship hardly is linear. ; Analysis: The first step involves defining the problem. In other words, it relates to monitoring and determining the opinions, attitudes and behavior of the relevant publics of the organization by way of research and fact finding.
; Plan: Planning and programming is the second step in process. This refers to decisions being made about objectives and procedures; the determination of the relevant publics, and the planning of strategies that need to be used in the problem-solving process.
; Action: The third step involves taking action and communicating. This includes the implementation of the plans and programs in order to achieve specific objectives. ; Evaluation: Evaluation is the fourth step and, for example in a public relations program, involves determining the results of the specific program, as well as assessing the effectiveness thereof. Adjustments can be made after evaluation to continue the program, or the program can be terminated.
3. New technologies, new practices for PR practitioners
In PR practice, the perceptions and opinions of important publics are evaluated. Conventional methods include analyses of print media and analyses of publics. With the diffusion of information and communication technologies, new analysis possibilities have emerged. Web pages and electronic publications can be examined. Survey questionnaires can be administered on the Web (with prizes to attract respondents). Usenet discussions and chat rooms can be monitored to track current and potentially troublesome issues. Logs of organizational Web sites can be analyzed and the number of hits monitored. Such analyses can be automated to a large extent, as the information is already in digital form.
By monitoring the Internet, PR practitioners learn what clients, stakeholders and various publics are saying. Knowing the discourses that are going on in the Internet,
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they can better form their strategies and messages. They can also respond faster to
potential crises resulting from erroneous information or malicious rumours (see
Crawford (1999) and Witmer (2000);
Conventional actions in PR practice often involve print media. If an organization
has both traditional media professionals and Web PR practitioners, they tend to work
separately. The change that is taking place leads to integration of all tools. The
actions are not self-evident: in an interview by Bayer (1999b), Phil Terry, the CEO of
Creative Good, Inc., encourages PR practitioners to „„do the opposite of their
instincts‟‟. The Internet-savvy public may not like push, they prefer pull („„If they
know where you are, they will find you‟‟ (Stein, 2000)). Traditional demographics
and segmentation of publics may not work; Internet users are highly individual („„I
want what I want when I want it‟‟ (Stein, 2000)).
Evaluation takes place simultaneously with other functions. In other words,
ongoing evaluation of both analyses, plans and actions is vitally important.
The functions of PR presented above, analysis, plan, action and evaluation, form
a loop, or a spiral. In a modern organization they cannot be divided to separate
functions. In the practical work of a PR professional well versed in new information
and communication technologies, these functions can be concretized in the following
guidelines (see Ekachai, 1999; Lordan, 1999; Sedge, 1999):
; Consider clients/audiences. Use media adapted to them. Create contacts with Web influential.
; Online means up to date. Update content continually; nothing is older than information that is both outdated and online. Updating will cost.
; Get in the right lane on the information highway. Arrange for your site to be listed with search engines (Altavista, Yahoo, etc.). Use search engine persuasion (SEP) techniques, but beware of spamming.. Align yourself with people in similar industries; create links between your Web service and theirs.
; Synergy and integration are important. For instance, make sure that the address of your Web page is referenced in all of your printed material.
; Give the clients, the stakeholders and the media what they want the way they want it. PR practitioners must know how they want information delivered: e-mail, fax, letter, Web page access etc. However, it is not a good idea to transmit your message in every way possible: it is too expensive and breaks the netiquette by flooding the media. ; Design a media kit or media room on your site, giving the media immediate access to
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e.g. press releases, biographical information, photos, and questions and answers.
Analysis and the case study
The key for a company‟s success is through good public relations. The internet has now
become a key player in this success factor. It provides a faster, broader reach for PR practitioners. They use it to publish company press releases, background information, to introduce new promotions and to provide various promotional information.
The key to a successful company Web site is its appearance and “its catch.” PR creates
the catch. It is the public relations department‟s role to keep the information up-to –date and
to conduct research studies to ensure that the company‟s clients are satisfied. The term “Viral
Marketing” and “viral Advertising” are becoming a very popular term in the online PR world.
Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet. Viral promotions may take the form of video clips, interactive Flash games, ebooks, brandable software, images.
It is a powerful way to generate traffic to your website and your affiliate products. Just like a virus spreads from one person to another, the idea behind viral marketing is to spread your "message" from one person to another. Your message is your product or your website or your affiliate products...and the faster the message spreads the more traffic you get and the more sales you make.
It promotes a product or service at a far less expense and much faster than any other channel of media available to PR practitioners. Until practitioners get a better grasp at how to achieve the perfect “viral marketing campaign,” they will have to settle for the virtual press
conferences, online media kits and press releases and site developments of special events.
For example: get everybody who had already started to use the free Hotmail service as advertisers and spokespeople for their service. When users sent e-mail from their free account, there was a tag line at the bottom of each e-mail that advertised the free Hotmail e-mail service with a link to hotmail.com. The end result was that everybody who sent e-mail was sending a free advertisement and endorsement to their friends, relatives and associates. People who received these e-mails clicked on the link, signed up for a free account, and then proceeded to repeat the cycle, sending e-mails tagged with the advertising link to all of their associates. Hotmail.com spread like wildfire, with very little advertising effort needed on the
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part of Hotmail.com. The distribution of the advertisements was handled almost solely by the users of the product. What made it especially effective was that the audience was extremely targeted, since the recipients of the tagged e-mails were already identified as users of e-mail.
A Web site dedicated to the press can be one of the most beneficial Public relations tools. Until now many daily newspaper reporters went online every day primarily for research articles.
Developing media relations Web sites, providing customized information delivery and creating positive e-mail relationships are key in producing effective online PR for a company. Position statements, activity calendars, breaking news information, speeches, government filings, special press kits, story ideas and PR campaign ideas can all be powerful tools that companies can post on the Web. Also, a PR staff directory including the name, phone numbers, email addresses and the area of expertise are very beneficial to the reporter. This way, the reporter doesn't have to go digging for information because it is all right there at his or her fingertips.
PR practitioners are improving relations with the press in several manners. It is more than just providing downloadable media kits and e-mailing press releases. On some sites, "shopping carts" are available where reporters can gather information about a story or company including management biographies, images and press releases from a Web site designed only for the press. This cuts costs and increases the speed of delivery drastically.
Taobao website in China Case study –
Taobao (www.taobao.com) is the leading online platform for personal transactions in China. Taobao is part of the Alibaba website which is a personal trading, E-commerce and C2C (Consumer to Consumer) website. Taobao provides a good opportunity for people who want to open their own business online and caters to people who want to buy good and cheaper products online. For the customers who know how to use the internet and how to pay online then you can have your own shop or shopping online.
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Providers of Taobao products are companies and individuals offering a variety of goods. For all punters who wish to sell on Taobao, sellers have to become members of Taobao first; second they must pass the authentication of their ID status, and only then does Taobao allow them to trade or sell their goods. This is done in order to maintain security and stability of E-commerce market development. A Taobao identity (from the original certification) is divided personal authentication and the businesses in order to improve the accuracy of personal authentication and transaction security.
Additional and peripheral services provided include Alipay, which is an online payment developed by Alibaba company and similar to the American PayPal system. Alipay services mean that the buyers will pay into an account of third-party Taobao, and then confirm receipt of goods after the payment has been made to the seller. It greatly reduces the risk of the buyer, and guarantees payment security and works in the interests of both buyers and sellers.
Also, in 2005 Taobao set up a security network called Network Guard. It is composed of network technology and experienced in anti-phishing. Staff is also at hand for investigating suspected fraud and criminal investigation online. Taobao ensured that the network transactions are very security. If they found online trading fraud and/or criminal acts of bad faith, they will immediately contact the local public security network monitoring departments to crack down, and act according to its zero tolerance policy. Taobao‟s communication system adopts to the internet and communication network, while the server of the transaction information has to ensure delivery; database servers are safe, and prevent hackers from breaking into the website and wreaking havoc. Taobao authentication and security monitoring also plays a significant role. In the system application software, Taobao use an online credit management system, authentication and security management systems, network monitoring and management systems and a network security management system so as to protect the security of the site, data and transactions.
Taobao provides a place to buy things online and also provides the convenience for both suppliers and consumers. Suppliers can give the price of products on the website for consumers to buy. Also they cannot reserve the right to start bidding, they have to let buyers bid on. Consumers can use the above two ways to buy the products. Then consumers can use Alipay to pay the payment online in order to get the products they want. As an agency, Taobao provides both sides with a recognized payment system to assure their mutual satisfaction. Alipay joined with the Industrial and Commercial Bank, the Construction Bank, the Agricultural Bank and China Merchants Bank to launch the security of payments instrument. Also, they organized a strategic alliance with VISA, that means any kind of credit
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cards with a VISA‟s logo is support by Alipay.
Taobao is a free for the service, the sellers‟ shop and all the service are free to change. This
include sellers‟ shop, trading and adopting products, the log free system in order for the suppliers and consumers both get profits in the trading. First, through free services, they attract a large number of users, and then they launch “the personal integrity” programme to
earn money. Second, they freely provide an exhibition space for the products, they supply information and e-mail the users. Because of that they attract many sellers and buyers to try these new things. Taobao Wangwang is communication software that is a trading tool online which provides the functions of text, voice, video camera communication and the new business information. There are more than 48 million members in Taobao, Alibaba and other industry websites. Through Taobao Wangwang you can easily find the person you are interested in, make friends and talk about transactions online. In order to facilitate users to quickly add a friend, there are two search methods for them: 1. Search login by name. 2. Search by keywords. Users can communicate through the text and video camera, voice too; also they can contact each other by the e-mail and send live messages.
Taobao has broken the number of 7,000,000 of online goods and hold half the online market in China. The turnover of Taobao is 1.02 billion Yuan in the first quarter in 2004 that is more than 3 times the annual sales of Beijing Wangfujing Department Store which is the equivalent of four Carrefour stores and six Wal-Mart stores in China.
Taobao is the largest online classified advertising medium in China. Taobao also created a unique business model to compete with eBay-Yiqu.
The Yiqu website is an E-Commerce which was established at Shang Hai in 1999. In 2000, eBay U.S. and Yiqu announced a strategic partnership to build the future of E-commerce in China. eBay invested $30,000,000 to get 33% of the shares of Yiqu for it to enter the rapid development of China‟s Internet market. In September 2004, eBay and Yiqu started to
challenge China‟s C2C market.
From beginning Taobao‟s online store only provided a trading platform for buyers and sellers.
They did not have a binding relationship to buyers and sellers. If there is a problem of a loan or commercial goods which is a risk, its resolution can only be undertaken by the buyers and sellers. The sellers, in order to protect their own interests, used to employ advance payment and then delivery of the products to buyers. In that case, and even with the previous trading record and consideration available online, the buyers still bear a very big risk with the deal, and this is no one wants to happen. That is the main reason for the low amount of transactions
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online a few years age. The buyers and sellers were in the exploratory stage of care. If this problem will not be solved, online trading will be difficult to work, and the online market will not expand. Buyers, sellers and the market were calling for the participation of a third party credit agency to ensure smooth transactions. Who is willing to take the risk out of it? eBay-Yiqu did not, other competitors have not done so. However, Taobao took the opportunity and provided the participation of a third party credit agency called Alipay.
Anfutong as American PayPal system could not be legally binding the buyers and sellers. On January 18, 2005, eBay-Yiqu launched a 10-day network promotion: if the buyers can consume over 50 Yuan in transaction through Anfutong, they will give 50 Yuan cash back to the buyers. This promotion just ran for a week, but the consulting reached the number of 130,000 times. There were 3500 consulting telephones, online consultations of up to 14,300 customers a day. eBay-Yiqu did not have the mental preparation for this, and because of the large number of transactions, the payment system was paralyzed. eBay-Yiqu was hasty making its preparations for this promotion, also the rules were vague, so both buyers and sellers participated in the event with great speculation. The sellers deliberately shill bid, and many buyers were randomly bound, after the seller of goods to be photographed nobody cared. Some buyers had paid the payment, but the sellers did not reply. Many of the buyers and sellers suffered losses. And so eBay-Yiqu lost their good reputation with the users.
eBay made the right decision to choose Yiqu as a window into the online market in China , eBay-Yiqu completely cloned the model of eBay to operate and manage. eBay-Yiqu copied eBay‟s trading platform and then changed the model which caused it not to gain profit in 5
years. It means the mode of eBay was not conforming to China's actual conditions; but they still had been stubbornly holding on to the same model that Americans enforced in Japan, China-Taiwan and the mainland of China. They did not know how to create the new model of operation and management in order to successfully march into China‟s actual conditions. That
is the reason eBay lost in China.
Taobao as a typical economic model of network became one of most successful C2C online businesses in the world. Features and a friendly interface is a big factor for Taobao Wangwang in its localization. Taobao has created the most honest and secure online marketplace through their payment function. And their Alipay has developed features holding up to the strict requirements its members. They built an online trading platform with a common credit environment, where buyers can dare to try online shopping, so that sellers can gain the trust of their customers.
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The Internet as a new medium has changed the practices of public relations through its new technologies. PR practitioners must further their education and are expect to have good skills in the use of new information technologies. They are expected to be proficient in monitoring the internet and designing Web pages. The most important thing, however, is that they have to understand how people use media, how they actively produce messages, and how the borderline between the reception and production has become blurred as result of the new information and communication technologies. Through the case study of Taobao, I made my point how Taobao as the biggest online C2C in China successfully outperforms its foreign competition. But they still need to improve their carrying capacity of the system especially when faced with simultaneous large number of purchase order. Importantly, it includes the third party-Alipay system that is running well and supporting its transactions. This also bodes and reflects well on Chinese online banking system, showing that they can be trusted.