With the increased transparency of organisation that the web has brought to us, the practice of public relations has become one hundred percent more volatile and accountable. PR needs to start talking to us like adults, not infants.
In the days of Web 1.0, the internet was used as an information service, a database of knowledge that was in most cases a one way street (publisher —> user). So the public relations practitioner would distribute the media release and it would be consumed by those who subscribe to it, with total control of the message, easy.
Since the dawn of Web 2.0, public relations has become more of a firefighting than mind-control. With social media ushering a unprecedented medium for the consumer to have an effect of what is being produced, sold and profited from, the PR practitioners job becomes a whole lot more complicated; it is now a two way street.
The basic but factual stats show that power no longer lies with the company, even though they have the capital, it lies with the user.
Pubic relations in the Web 2.0 era is no longer about lying to customers, it has to be about creating and maintaining relationships where honesty shines though. If an angry customer really wanted to find out something online in order to trash your brand, its not hard.
If a start-up company gains traction and starts to become relatively successful, it is the challenge of the PR practioner to communicate with the consumer with total transparency. You may challenge my view on this saying, surely supplier and financial information stay central, well no actually, there are patents and copyright for that.
Take my two examples of companies doing PR the right and wrong way.
Groupon started as a social media/shopping/deal of the day sort of website. Long story short, they became a little successful, got greedy, treated their loyal following like trash and turned the social side of their empire into a way to spoon feed the masses ONLY what they needed to know.
Bailey Nelson started a successful frames franchise with the point of difference being fashion at affordable and honest prices. Their social interaction is quick, effective and honest. A brilliant use of Web 2.0 PR.