In recent years the emergence of "social websites", blogs and other channels have changed the way people communicate. The most obvious change of course is that through these tools each individual now has a potential global audience. All of these changes have a profound effect on the communication of organisations and professionals, regardless of their size. In my opinion, Public Relations is the field of communication that is best suited to deal with this changing communication landscape.
Here is something I have been thinking about for a bit lately: how heavily should an organisation be invested in services like Facebook and Twitter? You can hear it all around: every organisation must have a Facebook page, Twitter account, etcetera. But from a strategic point of view, I am beginning to think they are less important as it may seem. Sites and services like Twitter, Facebook et al. are important now, I agree, but...
Photo: IXQUICKA Greek Apple authorised Service Provider has taken a client to court because he complained online about their service. According to the company, the client slandered their good name and they are seeking € 200 000 (about $ 267 000) in damages. Now I do not know who was right or wrong in this case, but from a Public Relations point of view the company (System Graph) made an enormous mistake. For example: imagine you live in Greece and you contemplate buying an Apple computer from them. Enter "System Graph Apple" in Google and this story is right there on the front page. Would that influence your purchase decision? I think it would. More importantly, the story is over the entire internet, where the customer is generally perceived as the underdog and the company as being 'evil'. This will have a longer term impact since something on the internet doesn't disappear easily. But let's look at this from a larger perspective:
This week, a new website launched - gri.pe - that is in my opinion a fine example of how organisations are forced to adapt to new ways of communication. The idea behind it is that people can use their online influence to resolve conflicts with local organisations. While this in itself is nothing new, Gripe adds an element that can have some interesting consequences for local organisations and clearly illustrates why Public Relations (online and offline) is so important:
I am in the midst of a situation with T-Mobile that is a perfect little case study in how organisations are struggling with the changes in communication and how Public Relations lies at the heart of the matter.
Last Tuesday (7 September) I decided to renew and upgrade my mobile phone contract. This included a new phone to replace my 'ageing' BlackBerry. In the e-mail confirmation, T-Mobile mentioned that their logistics partner would contact me within 48 hours to arrange delivery. Instead of 48, it took them 66 hours to contact me. Slow, but not very annoying. The real surprise came when I clicked the link to plan the delivery appointment: ...
Several people in France, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden reported the screen of their iPhone 3GS exploding or cracking (the image by the way is not a real photograph, it was fabricated for illustrative purposes only). Apparantly, one French iPhone user was hit by small pieces of glass in his face because the screen 'exploded' when taking a call. At first Apple only said they were "aware of the problem" but couldn't say anything more until the phones were sent back and inspected. After investigating the phones, they claimed that the damage was caused by an "external force", suggesting that the problem is not with the iPhone. In fact, by stating it like this, they more or less blame the customers for the damage. While this may or may not be true, a French consumer organisation and the European Union are now researching the cases and watching out for any future issues regarding the iPhone. Getting this kind of attention is hardly ever a good thing for an organisation. It looks as if Apple is trying to cover up any deficiencies of the iPhone. From a Public Relations point of view, trying to cover things up is usually a bad strategy, so let us examine what is going on here from a PR angle:
©IHGI have never been to Venice (at least, not yet...) and I'd never heard of the Crowne Plaza hotel there. Not until now that is. And the fact that I am now aware of it is a good example of how online communication has a profound effect on Public Relations. Somebody in their organisation made a silly mistake. A mistake that has huge (financial) consequences for the hotel, very negative on the first impression, but possibly great consequences in the long run. Read on to see how and what:
When you want to buy a new product or service, you usually do some research first. The more expensive the product, or the longer term the service, the more research you are likely to do. This "research" is of course influenced by various factors, many of which are of a psychological nature. And not all are rational. But it does usually involve one thing: you consult people you trust that have either first-hand experience with the product, service and the company or are considered an "authority" on the subject. The main element however is that you trust these people.
Technological developments have always had a profound impact on human interaction. Faster means of travel, the telegraph, telephone, newspapers, television: each one opened up new channels of communication. One-on-one or one-to-many. The latest incarnations are of course mobile telephones and the internet. In recent years however, both technologies have advanced in leaps and are connected to one another. While this might seem like just another rather insignificant step, it is my opinion that this will have an impact on human interaction yet only to be guessed at. Consider this: