Deciding what’s useful for PR online

The MIPAA new media workshop is taking place on Friday, our 3rd year of focusing on developments in the online arena.  I’m looking forward to hearing the latest thoughts of Antony Mayfield of iCrossing whose presentation at our first event in 2006 stimulated my plans to launch the Greenbanana blog.

This year, I’ve also devised some case studies on PR and new media as a group exercise.  Drawing on real life PR disasters – or opportunities to learn – I’ve identified typical situations practitioners may face in order for the workshop attendees to develop effective solutions. 

Often the new media focus in PR, and marketing, is on using various tools; setting up Facebook groups, getting a presence in SecondLife or establishing a blog.  But the real challenges are in deciding if these are relevant, likely to generate interest, or if they could create more problems than they solve.

The final element of our course is an expert panel with media representatives from The Car Enthusiast, Parkers and Auto Express.  The debate will no doubt range from  how PR practitioners should best interact with media sites to issues of evaluation – how do you decide which are the best sites to engage.

I was interested to see the Daily Telegraph has published a list of the 20 most useful car websites.  Equally interesting is the press release from 4Car, claiming to have topped the list.

The Daily Telegraph list does not appear to have any scientific basis – and doesn’t actually (on the website at least) present a ranking of “most useful” or “best”. 

Okay, being first listed might technically enable 4Car to state it topped the list – but was it the intention of the unnamed author of the article to rank the sites? 

And, what exactly does “most useful” mean?  It is lazy journalism, in my view, to simply come up with a list without any attempt to have a methodical approach of analysing the sites.  In this case we can’t even say it is a personal choice, as the author isn’t identified.

There are a lot of questions facing PR practitioners in deciding which online tools to use and which bloggers, websites, etc to target. Of course as individual readers/consumers we might comprise our own top 20 lists, which may be idiosyncratic to us.  But as professionals, our approach ought to be more robust – so I hope there aren’t too many taking the Daily Telegraph list as having any great relevance.  Despite 4Car seeking to use it as endorsement.

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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.