Online Public Relations Messes |

As a Public Relations person, I’ve been wary of the supposed ubiquity of the growing social media movement from the beginning. There is a lot of talk about power to the people, the democratisation of media, and the need for companies and organisations to to subjugate themselves to the voice of the people no matter what, because that’s just how it is now.I’m all for a friendly relationship with your customers and the users of your services, but to put so much stock in, and to give your life into the hands of such volatile platforms as Twitter and Facebook seems like a foolhardy idea to me.I see the power of them as personal communication tools and even as corporate communication tools, but PR is about more than just communicating properly and in a friendly manner with the people who matter to your organisation. It’s also about controlling the conversation so the the message that you wish to disseminate into the general public or target audience gets sent out in the right direction and saying the right thing.By all means use Twitter and Facebook, and whatever other social sites on the internet you wish to. They are fast becoming an essential component of personal communications, even if one that is prone to more time-wasting and strutting than all the modes of telecommunication invented before. But, don’t suddenly assume that signing up for a free account on these services with the name of your organisation automatically gives you plenty of free girl-scout cookie points in the eyes of the audience you wish to talk too.If anything the sheer mass of humanity on some of these sites means you will spend an inordinate amount of time finding the diamonds amongst the rough, and an even greater time dealing with the misbehaviour of some of the more bored members of the general public who often have no real interest or connection with your product or service offering.When it comes to accepting online media as the ultimate saviour of all your PR woes, I’d quote the old Latin: caveat emptor. Don’t buy into these new media without making sure you know what you’re getting into, and more importantly, knowing whether the people you want to talk to will appreciate your adventures on the internet.If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And also, if it’s just not going to work for your particular case, don’t bother. Evaluate before you take the leap, and don’t forget to ask that all important why.