By Irfan Nugroho
Fast advancement of information technology has created a new way for Public Relations Officer to climb a new path to reach the peak of relations with the public. Actually, there are no significant differences between Public Relations and E-Public Relations.
E-Public Relations is ‘the application of information and communication technology for carrying out Public Relations functions’ (Onggo;2008) emphasizing the ‘internal communication (intranet) and external communication (internet)’ (CERP;2002). The essence of E-Public Relations Discipline is ‘establishing relations through browsing, evaluating, and disseminating knowledge or news to processing communication’ (Onggo;2008). Communication in E-Public Relations run electronically (CERP;2002).
Consequently, ‘everything done by Public Relations Officer through the internet is one of E-Public Relations activities’ (Suryadi;2007). It is based on the interpretation towards the letter “E” on E-Public Relations that means everything (Suryadi;2007). However, “E” may also be interpreted as electronic.
There are two types of E-Public Relations, Online E-Public Relations and Offline E-Public Relations. However, the categorization here is based on the E-Public Relations activities, whether electronic equipments on Public Relations are connected to the internet (online) or not (offline).
a. Online E-Public Relations
CERP, an organization covering all national and professional Public Relations association in Europe, divides online E-Public Relations into two categories. They are “Web PR” and “Net PR.”
Web PR in online E-Public Relations – CERP commonly calls it ‘online Public Relations’ – takes form in interactive website or homepage. The homepage provides an excellent opportunity to distribute information to public speedily, effectively, and cost-efficiently.
Net PR in online Public Relations includes chat room, e-mail (Net) Press Releases, and the use of interactive intranet. Net PR takes form the following:
· Net communication
· Chat room
· Forum – lists
· Virtual organizations, job finder, etc
· Net media services
· Net press releases (video, audio, audio-visual presentation, b-rolls, video press releases, etc).
Suryadi (2007;69) states eight points that must be available on website. Those eight points are below:
1. Organization’s background. This menu consists of organization’s mainstream, mission statements, kind of industry, philosophy, founder, and social sponsor or events.
2. Press releases archive. This menu comprises press releases documentation and must also include chronological list of organization’s events, photos, Public Relations Officer’s and organization’s e-mail address.
3. Financial report. On this menu must include organization’s annual financial reports and momentous financial records ever.
4. Catalogue services or products. On this menu should be available brief explanation of organization’s products or services, products’ prices, and images of the products.
5. Routine Reports. It seems the same as press releases about monthly or annual organization’s meeting.
6. Location. A good website should provide a map leading to the location of the organization.
7. Announcement. Organization’s website should make a space containing organization’s events. This space aims to announce the public that there will be or had been an events relating to the organization.
8. Relevant links. The aims of placing relevant links on website are below:
· Improving the rating of organization’s website
· Improving competency and business relations
Besides those eight points stated by Suryadi (2007;69), Kim Harisson, an author and principal of CuttingEdgePR.com, adds some other points that should have a special space on organization’s website. This space is usually called About Us. Harisson states “about us” menu should be found easily. He adds these important points:
1. What the organization does
2. organizational visions, missions, and goals
3. board structure
4. names and titles of senior executives
b. Offline E-Public Relations
Suryadi (2007;77) conveys some devices of offline E-Public Relations. He mentions that there are four devices of offline E-Public Relations which are not connected to the internet. Those offline E-Public Relations devices are below:
· Telephone. Along with the advancement of e-mail usage, many web-developers work hard to relate telephone devices with e-mail voice. The telephone functions to complement E-Public Relations activities such as follow-up call, contact number, hotlines, and networking.
· Conventional Letter. A Public Relations Officer will use conventional letter to spread printed media or brochures to introduce a certain website. Conventional letter is used to avoid the risk of e-mail spam. Hence, many internet users set their own e-mail addresses from any type of e-mail spam.
· Fax. Along the fast development of internet media, the use of fax gradually decreases day after day. However, the use of fax here must be in the form of repetitions. It means that you send file via fax while at the same time, you must also send that file through e-mail or conventional letter. It will sign the receivers the urgency of the file you have sent.
· Internet Magazine. In recent years, the emergence of online media begins replacing offline media. Hence, a savvy Public Relations Officer must be capable of using those media to show an organization’s online activities. In this case, a Public Relations Officer is demanded to possess good writing skill, especially writing press releases then send them to other internet magazines that are available.
However, there are two more offline E-Public Relations devices according to CERP. CERP includes television and radio into offline E-Public Relations devices. However, using those two devices will spend a lot of money even though it will be very effective.
3. Establishing Relations in E-Public Relations
Now we have known the definitions and types of E-Public Relations. We will see that ‘E-Public Relations follows the principle of establishing relations’ (Onggo;2002). Many Public Relations Officers use e-mail to communicate with broader public ‘but do not believe it ever will replace face-to-face communication as the best way to interact’ (Duke in Wright;2001). However, Kent and Taylor (1998;322) keeps on their stances that ‘building relations through World Wide Web (internet) is the best way to respond immediately towards organizational problems and crises, but it still remains underutilized.
Kent and Taylor give five principles for establishing dialogic relations with the public through World Wide Web such as below:
- Principle one: The Dialogic Loop
E-Public Relations through World Wide Web provides a space that ‘allows feedback from audiences to be embedded in the [public relations] tactic itself’ (Johnson in Kent and Taylor; 1998). Kent and Taylor also remark that the dialogic loop allows publics to query organizations and, more importantly, it offers organizations the opportunity to respond to the questions, concerns, and problems.
Kent and Taylor also suggested that an organization implying dialogic loop must train its staffs to respond to electronic communication. Likewise, they must also state the commitment that they will be professional and timely respond.
- Principle two: The Usefulness of Information
The usefulness of information is the idea of hierarchy and structure that is covered in any good summary of website construction. The usefulness of information must be placed on an eye-catching area since the public visits an organization’s website because of the organization’s usefulness and trustworthy information.
Usefulness of information takes form in contact addresses, telephone numbers, and e-mail addresses of organizational staffs, external experts, share holders, and those holding valid competing positions. It may also in the forms of explanation about the process of producing an organization’s products, lists of ingredients, and explanations of what ingredients are.
Principle two suggests that relations with the public must be cultivated not only to serve organization’s goals, but also to serve public interests, values, and concerns. One caveat says “do not ‘trick’ public into receiving information in perpetuity or under the guise of a “one-shot-deal” (Benson;1994).
- Principle three: The generation of Return Visit
An organization’s website may be categorized as an effective medium to establish relations with the public should be attractive so that visitors do repeat visiting. It can be done by providing certain space for frequently asked questions (FAQs), easily downloadable or mailed information, technical or specialized information.
In addition, a website must contain updated information, changing issues, special forums, new commentaries, and online question-answer session. Updating information is an easy way for Public Relations Officer to create dialogic relations.
- Principle four: The Intuitiveness or Ease of the Interface.
Visitors who come to website for informational purposes, even for curiosity, should find the site that is easy to figure out and understand. Tables of contents are useful and must be well organized and hierarchical. Text on website should load faster than graphic or website’s layout. However, the organization’s logo should include into one of considerations to load faster.
The focus of website should be on an organization, its product and information. Website should be dynamic enough to encourage publics to explore it. Information that is rich enough provides the needs of very diverse publics and attracts them to pursue further information and dialogic relations.
- Principle five: The Rule of Conversation of Visitors
There is a saying ‘they are coming to your website for what is offered and not to shop for other websites. It is good enough to keep visitor for repeat visiting. Hence, website should include only “essential links” with clearly marked paths for visitors to return to our website.
If an organization will try to provide information, it should either avoid sponsored advertisement or use strategic placement that will not distract publics. Buber (1970), suggested that dialogic communication should be the goal of the interaction and not merely a mean to an end such as marketing or advertising.
This is a brief explication of what E-Public Relations is and does. As a conclusion, whatever Public Relations Officer does through the internet can be categorized as Public Relations activities as it ‘follows the principle of establishing relations’ (Onggo;2008). Likewise, E-Public Relations concept also emphasizes ‘internal communication (intranet) and external communication (internet)’ (CERP;2002).