As we go through the aspects of Internet mediated public relations it is noticeable that someone has secretly sneaked into the place where they keep management, public relations and marketing rulebooks and scribbled on most of the pages.
In traditional management teaching, public and stakeholder relations created understanding of the culture or context for a company or organisation. People ‘understood where they were’. This relationship, largely crafted by companies, and other organisation (politicians, church, civil service, charities and Non Governmental Organisations etc) created an environment to allow a company (or organisation) to effectively promote its products and services. This created and context and public knowledge and (sometimes) an empathy with the public. Within this context, advertising and marketing promoted products and services to achieve sales. The chain of supply, production, distribution and payment process took over and distributed the product or service. It was simple.
Figure 1 (c) David Phillips 2007 The Traditional Information Value Chain
This process is now changed – someone has scribbled in the book! The public relations (politicians, church, civil service, charities and Non Governmental Organisations marketing, advertising and value chain transactions) contribution is now increasingly subsumed into an Internet driven context.
This conquest is both overt and hidden.
The overt presence (promotion and interaction between an organisation and its constituency) is now largely transparent and available in the Internet network. This is because of the application of web sites, news distribution, Internet marketing and market makers, in business to consumer and business-to-business environments.
The subliminal influence of the Internet, as the means by which an organisation is evident in the human (and machine) context, is not difficult to uncover.
The presence of information and messages about organisations is spread by, and through, web crawlers, search engines and RSS (note these are technologies not people). They are also distributed by people using email, Mobile text messaging, Instant Messaging, blogs, newsgroups, chat, personal, media and corporate web sites and much more.
Even tracking a new message in cyberspace is daunting. Monitoring all the messages, new and old, is already too difficult. The Internet is thereby in charge of creating context in which an organisation is evident to a broad constituency.
Such change is of the Internet. There is more. This change is affecting the ‘traditional’ context more than most understand.
Because a large part of the physical world is now dependent on information delivered across the Internet and through a range of devices, the once separate relationship between traditional and Internet driven relationships has gone. For example, reporters and news providers have become heavily dependent on the Internet which means that ‘traditional’ newspaper readers are reading Internet driven news by proxy. Traditional banks, manufacturers, logisticians, lawyers, physicians.... (the list is too long to enumerate) and more now depend on the Internet for information to allow them to operate. The context by which an organisation is known is only as good as its ability to use the Internet and to be part of the Internet culture. The web site is now the front window and front door for most organisations.
New employment dependencies are becoming apparent such as the print, publishing and distribution of books and CD’s benefiting from the on-line success of Amazon, Barnes and Noble and their competitors. This true of so many industries.
Progressively, overtly and subliminally, Internet technologies throughout the supply/demand chain, or, more appropriately, the value chain, but more significantly throughout the ‘value network’ have taken charge. Now, the whole population is dependant either directly or indirectly.
The context in which an organisation can thrive is rapidly moving from its ability to create relationships with publics (public relations) to relationships created by and across the Internet – and mostly via third parties beyond its control.
Figure 2 (c) David Phillips 2007 The New Information Value Network
The value network, extending upstream to suppliers and downstream to customers also includes the value added third parties to the transaction as well as other tertiary contributors in a network of networks. At an ever-greater extent they attenuate processes as information flows transparently through the whole of the transaction network. At once the supplier can be customer, partner, social commentator and commercial foe in such a networked structure. The consumer of news is also its author, editor, distributor and promoter as bloggers file their copy, pictures and videos and journalists comment upon them.
The Internet's capability to allow people to access information comes through the nature and use of search engines, a very popular form of interactivity, but so too is an ability to interact with products and service, buy and sell, to pay taxes and to hold conversations, exchange virtual artifacts like pictures poetry and films.
Any analysis of pages viewed or searches made this century will show that interactive sites get more people involved.
More people have access to the Internet, more people can get 'stuff' faster because they have broadband, people are spending more time online. Industry has responded. It has invested in 'better' web sites. More graphics, eye tracking to optimise page layout and many other methodologies.
The result is disappointing.
Corporate web sites, by and large, have seen little by way of exciting growth in the amount of access by Internet users. Exceptions are those that offer opportunities to play, interact or buy.
Is the relatively poor performance of the generality of institutional web sites just because there are many more sites for people to visit? Is this because search engines have made it easy for people to find new places to go?
The Myspace, YouTube and Second Life phenomena suggests otherwise. Analysis of these types of web site, hugely interactive both in terms of their technologies and as the means for development of social groups, shows dramatic acceleration in numbers of users, frequency of use and interactivity. Even more significant is that these sites are key recommenders. People share information about their favorite web sites.
Conversations have been important for Internet users since it began but now these conversations are among millions, are easy to use and are huge drivers.
Interactivity changes organisations. As users interact with organisations, the organisations have to change. They have to respond. As a result they create systems, protocols and processes to re-act. If an order is placed online, a company has to devise systems to deliver goods, services and interactions with users. The Internet is changing organisations. Processes are included in the intellectual capital of organisations which is one way in which the Internet is changing the asset value of organisations. The online relationships are affecting the value of organisations.
Internet mediated Public Relations adds value in its own right and, additionally, as its evolution as a catalyst for empowering users in their relationship clouds, it becomes a bigger player in changing the value of organisations.