Kirk Hallahan, professor at Colorado State University, is the 2007 recipient of the Institute for Public Relations Pathfinder Award for outstanding scholarly contributions. Hallahan has focused his recent research on the application of online technologies to PR practice. In a column available on the Institute website, he summarizes much of what he has learned in four observations.
1. Public relations activities cannot be segregated from an organization’s other uses of technology. Work is performed using the same technologies commonly used in public relations to reach both external and internal stakeholders. Customers and others are increasingly asked to interact with organizations through web- and wireless-based self-service technologies. This trend can actually enhance organizational credibility by melding managerial and relational functions.
2. Public relations must redefine itself as a result of technology. The critical question is whether practitioners are charged merely with producing, distributing and promoting messages that take advantage of new technologies (the traditional communication function of public relations); or should the real function of public relations be to advise managements at all levels (from chief executives to systems analysts) about maximizing organizational-user relationships regardless of who produces content?
3. New technologies are not the solution to all organizational communications problems. Just because a new tool is available – or others have rushed to use it – is not an appropriate reason for adoption. With so many choices, planning must be media-neutral and involve the astute selection of channels. Moreover there is a limit to the quantity and quality of time people can spend with new media and organizational messages – especially users who have low or minimal involvement with an organization.
4. Technology poses new challenges to public relations and client organizations. The speed with which information can be shared with stakeholders during a crisis or controversy is obviously an ideal application of new media. Yet speed has placed new, unintended burdens on organizations as well. Public relations practitioners must understand the dark side of cyberspace in order to provide advice concerning the prevention and containment of risks and to respond adroitly when organizations are confronted with cyber threats.
Please visit the Institute website to read and respond to the full column by Dr. Hallahan.