One in three consumers communicating online

links to Forrester’s  which groups consumers into six different categories of online engagement.  This indicates more people are creators (13%) and critics (19%) than the traditional (which says in a group of 100 people online, 1 creates content, 10 interact with it and 89 will view it).

Are one-third of those online, really creating or  adding to online content? 

That seems a high percentage to me.  But, as indicates, there are certainly a lot of PR people keen to get more involved, but not sure how to take their first steps up the ladder.

This fits with my own experience – attendance is high at social media events (such as the “Blogging and Beyond” event at yesterday evening), but few PR practitioners seem to have  joined the conversation.  I concur entirely with Stuart’s advice that the best place to start is by listening, and gaining confidence to add relevant comments.

I’ve also noticed that some PR practitioners at such events are afraid that social media means a lack of control.  For me, this is one of the great advantages of online communications, that the message gains momentum, if it is interesting enough to those who wish to spread it.

I’m not sure where this belief that PR is about control comes from – maybe a focus on planning in recent years?  PR people are often at their best when dealing with crisis situations and “live” projects where there is unpredictability and constant change. 

I always understood that, unlike with advertising/marketing, PR techniques offer less control especially when working with informed journalists.  Have increasing pressures on journalists resulted in PR people believing they are in charge of what is reported? 

Why should public relations practitioners seek to control what others communicate?  It can’t be because they are always hiding something – or is it because organisations don’t recognise the value of having real conversations instead of spouting puff?

If so, it cannot be a bad thing to see more people not only viewing, but adding to online discussion.  I believe PR will thrive when we realise that control is not one of our strengths, but that being able to help organisations interact through conversation is.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

3 thoughts on “One in three consumers communicating online”

  1. I think the notion about control comes from people above PR. I suspect there’s many a chief exec who imagines PR is principally about controlling the media and controlling outgoing messages, in the same way that the accountant controls spending.
    Maybe the realisation that this is impossible will dawn because of the sheer volume and jelly-like nature of social media.
    It’s quite possible that social media re-writes the kind of stakeholder mapping that previously allowed PRs to label someone as of ‘low power’ and therefore capable of being ignored. Now everyone is powerful and has to be taken into account.

  2. I think this belief in control is the “myth of the rational manager” – and to an extent planning models give an illusion that you can achieve outcomes just by setting objectives and taking action which you decide upon.

    Chaos and complexity theories are interesting as they challenge this belief in linear strategies and offer a lot more potential for organisations to be flexible, develop situational approaches and refocus attention from pre-labelling stakeholders to recognising connectivity and as you say, potential power of any individual.

    I think it is an exciting opportunity for PR – if practitioners can demonstrate the virtues of engagement rather than seeking to control, manipulate or contront.

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