An approach to the practice of external communication: global trends inside a hyper-mediatised context

5 years, 6 months ago

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The extensive use of social media has restated the role of PR practitioners through a wider field of action and growing participation inside the organisation. PR has become a strategic partner rather than an anonymous and decorative body, requiring complet



A few decades ago, external communication implied a number of protocol strategies aimed at establishing a good relationship with the mass media. That procedure alone, assuming it was properly developed, may have ensured a positive image of an organisation. However, after the exponential evolution of the Internet and the new possibilities of virtual socialisation, the paradigm described above is no longer the prevailing one. 
 
Many companies at the forefront of communications have a deep understanding of the importance of a good reputation. It allows them to differentiate their brand, products and services from competitors in aggressive markets; and to become agents of change, exploring new paths to develop solutions. They have decisively invested in the area of communication to tune into and empathise with Internet users, including prosumers and the diverse informative agents spread over the web – those who channel opinion trends in the social networks.
 
In such a scenario, the PR practitioner shall not depend exclusively on his or her contacts with the media. Audiences are no longer entirely ‘massive’ or ‘unified’. Rather they have become more segmented, diversified and conscious about the information they receive. Often that information is widely commented upon.  
 
We no longer speak about viewers or traditional readers but about media consumers of multi-platforms, going from traditional PCs to hand-held computers and smartphones. These devices play a significantly role in the routines and daily information consumption of their users. 
 
End of passivity 
 
The interactive nature of media today means consumers are no longer happy to be passive recipients of information. Content is no longer just transferred on a one-way basis. Instead, people aspire to become ‘connected’. They familiarise themselves with the diverse digital capabilities provided by ICT.
 
Might all of this suggest an emerging corporate ‘global’ communication? Actually, what we need to see more of is organisational communication open to contributions from other areas of the corporation: Marketing, Human Resources, Market Research, etc. 
 
Organisations must embrace a core concept of clear and direct messages. This should take into account the writing styles that today are prominent on the web. And of course, make use of more audiovisual content to generate interaction and feedback. 
 
Mixed communication involves the creation of official accounts as well as attentive monitoring. As far as possible, it is unwise to disregard the comments, doubts and other contributions of online users. This is the essential way to know – and get involved with – external publics. 
 
Do not wait until relationships decline and crisis procedures have been activated. By then the situation may already be out of control.    
 
Content management strategy
 
Communication planning could be deemed to be restating the working methodology. Priority should be given to research and further assessment, to measure the efficiency of the spread of messages and how these have been communicated to different publics. 
 
The CCO, as a strategic agent of content management, monitors all the processes and is able to restate and redirect the messages according to the countless and continuous changes experienced by public opinion. Once an organisation has implemented an internal information centre reporting news about the internal and corporate environment, as well as the external one, it is possible to deliver instructive and amusing content of high resolution and display quality to the mobile gadgets of the targeted publics. 
 
The administrators who address the information through the social networks play an essential role. Originally, the Community managers were just a complement to the rest of the traditional channels. Now they have the great responsibility to manage social media as the defenders of corporate reputation. 
 
Future trends
 
In the coming decades, the transfer of the quasi-analogue speech to the digital space will be evidenced clearly. Static screens will give rise to more dynamic options. There will be a growth in holographic technology, more interactivity and touch (haptic) capabilities that we are starting to see in new integrated multimedia functions similar to those from Apple Watch, Google Glass and other examples of wearable tech. This of course will bring more challenges for PR practitioners.
 
With so many people now connected and avid users of social media, it is basic good practice to use these virtual platforms of socialization as content/information spreading and feedback channels with diverse publics. Yet achieving effectiveness does not depend exclusively on connection with your audience. Online messages becomes relevant if useful content aligns to the communicational goals of the organisation, as a logical consequence of the policies of transparency and staying true to corporate values. It is essential to fight uncertainty and distortion of the message to gain loyalty and deliver greater audience involvement.
 
In this way, a global strategy of communication could not work if it is based on hiding or severely limiting information. Consumers and stakeholders are better informed than ever, and more aware about local and transnational issues. 
 
There are practical and commercial advantages in taking an ethical approach to communication. As evidenced in multiple cases, attempts at deception and data distortion do not build confidence. In fact, the opposite happens.  The image of the whole organization is negatively affected. 
 
We see the same outcomes in cases of corruption and political scandals. Internet users will be severe in penalising any attempt at cheating or bad practices that violate their rights.  
 
 
Author’s Details
Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.
 
Currently, Dr. Sánchez serves as the Director of the Research Institute of the Professional School of Communication Sciences at Universidad de San Martín de Porres in Lima, Peru. She holds a PhD and MA in Communication and Public Relations. Her publications focus on the evolution of Public Relations in Peru within both an academic and professional context. As part of her contribution to the development of PR and communications, she serves as a jury member for several local and foreign associations.
 
Dr. Sánchez believes that an ever closer relationship between the business world and the academic community is essential in sharing knowledge and improving society.  
 

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Amybel Sánchez de Walther

Dr. Amybel Sánchez is IPRA President for 2015. An IPRA member for eight years, she has been the representative member of the Latin American Chapter since 2010.

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