Public relations agencies now use electronic mail to communicate with clients and potential clients. Just as with internal communication, it is faster, easier and more economical. Proposals, documents, drafts of speeches and other materials can be transmitted back and forth across the country. E-mail has also improved communication with public relations specialists and members of the media. This tool has become a useful way for organizations to make their "experts" available to the public. Internet chat can be another useful tool in communicating with publics and clients. This allows two or more parties to communicate in real time; making revisions, sharing ideas and more (2).
The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is one of the most popular features of the Internet, and it is the fastest growing. RHI Consulting, a company that specializes in information technology, found in a nationwide survey that 66% of companies that maintain a site on the World Wide Web use their site for advertising, marketing and public relations (3). Establishing a site on the World Wide Web is becoming necessary for companies who wish to maintain a presence in the business world. Web sites allow organizations to attract consumers, market their products, disseminate information, and communicate their mission, values and messages. But companies must remember that they can't just build a flashy page and keep your fingers crossed. You must target the correct audience, use the correct message and continue to make it better (4). Public relations professionals must always remember that their number one goal is to create understanding between their organization and its publics. This requires a certain amount of two-way communication that posting a web site may not fulfill (5).
The Internet is a huge source of knowledge. It can be extrememly helpful in finding all types of information on basic subjects or audiences. It provides the ability to gather information from a multitude of sources such as universities or governmental agencies (3). Also, tools such as newsgroups, internet chat and bulleting boards are useful in audience research. Usenet newsgroups allow professionals to gather opinions from all types of audiences on all types of subjects. These newsgroups can also be used as a forum for customers to praise products or services, make complaints or offer ideas. Chat can be used as another means to get this type of feedback in real time. The Internet can actually be considered, by public relations professionals,to be something of an online focus group (2).
Press Release/News Services
Over the past years many services have been created to help PR professionals disseminate their information and their message. Services such as PRNewswire and BusinessWire use the online world to distribute press releases. These services charge fees to the public relations agencies who post them on the Internet and the media who subscribe to them. Newspaper writers can sort through the listing of press releases to find the story or the sources that they need. These services have made life easier for journalists and public relations professionals.
The Internet has dramatically changed the capabilities available for communication with consumers, the media, competitors and the rest of the world. This new technology has brought the outside world a little closer to home.