Public relations practitioners now have the online world at their fingertips, literally. We live in a world where geographical boundaries can be crossed virtually, with a little help from the famous internet bridge.

Practitioners have the opportunity to read content faster by reading a digitised book rather than flicking through pages of actual books. Secondary research is much faster than ever. See Michaelson and Stack’s eBook.

It is vital for practitioners to conduct online research for numerous tasks. From double-checking a journalists name, looking through PRIA’s academic sources, updating a backgrounder document to the stages throughout a campaign.

They also use online research to research and monitor over a broad spectrum of communication platforms such as: e-mail, social media, online surveys, podcasting, video-sharing, blogs and online conferencing. See Phillips and Young’s eBook.

The list doesn’t stop there, so I thought I’d focus on a campaign that relates to this week’s topic. Remember a few weeks ago when Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s campaign logo got out of hand? See this ABC News article.

Their logo was actually pulled from their conference because of negative connotations on powerful networking platform, Twitter. To save themselves from further world-wide negative publicity and embarrassment, they replaced the logo with a safer option and re-designed a new logo for their cause. Check out Brand New’s website.

Monitoring and online research plays a significant role throughout a campaign. By monitoring users’ tweets and comments they chose the best course of action for their brand. They removed it after learning that the logo was stirring negative publicity.

Unfortunately in this situation, users’ can capture digital content with a screenshot before it is removed, meaning the content can still reach further audiences. See in Johnston and Sheehan’s Public Relations 4th edition.

Google is a starting point for online research, but it certainly isn’t the end. The end is like the universe, the end is unknown. Of course, a desired outcome is planned but not always accomplished. To help practitioners to do the most accurate and timely job they can, using search engines such as Google alert, Search Engine Optimization, and Hashtags.

According to Philips and Young, many practitioners will use search engines on a regular basis. This will ensure that people who are searching for content about an organisation will be presented with both old and recent information by collecting data with particular words or phrases. See Red Evolution’s website for more info about SEO.

Google Alert, is a fantastic way to find information. Hang on! Google finds content for you, based on the topics you wish for it to search and will then send you an e-mail regarding the source it has found. Practitioners can monitor the web by creating a list of Google Alerts, they can even be notified “as-it-happens.” 

Hashtags are also a great search engine and can also be picked up in Google Alerts. Hashtags create a clickable link for practitioners to access information. Strategic hash tagging for practitioners can work wonders, they are an easy way to spread a message via social media and the most popular hashtags become trending topics, as read in Johnston and Sheehan 4th edition.

People flock to social networking sites to see what’s trending in the news and amongst their friendship groups. This can work to a practitioner’s advantage, or disadvantage.

So there you have it, online research and monitoring really do go hand in hand. It is vital for practitioners to conduct regular online research and monitor the online world.

 “The participatory nature of social media meshes organizational public relations practices with a diversity of voices that can take public relations efforts in unwelcome directions.”– Sanderson, Barnes, Williamson, & Kian.

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