Understanding the role of platforms and channels is essential in Public Relations. Technology is consistently changing and developing and knowing what the latest device is and who is using it for what purpose can be beneficial in message dissemination.

A platform can be summed up as an internet enabled device. It provides the user with opportunities to access online content, share, produce and download. Everyday platforms would include computers/laptops, mobile phones (particularly smart phones), games consoles, televisions, mobile music devices, tablets and iPads. Theses platforms provide access to channels – a channel is a means of communicating a message between two parties (this can be a person to person, group to person or even computer to person). Channels vary from web pages, blogs, social networks, wikis, QR codes, bar codes, live feeds, micro blogs , email, instant messaging and so many more.

Being aware of the platforms that are out there and who is using them to access which channels is important. It would be silly to think everyone is using smart phones to update their Facebook profiles.

There are five key drives in online Public Relations and understanding how platforms and channels can impact on them can benefit an organisation in its online practice.

Transparency can be essential for an organisation. Appearing open and honest can result in a strong and positive reputation. However, if an organisation has something to hide, the chances are someone will find it. Many people on social networks are following their favourite brands and others are criticizing brands, so anything that isn’t seen to be ethical and morally correct could easily be spread across the internet at the touch of a button.

Agency is allowing internet users to become the producers. They no longer consume media that they are being fed. The public can now contribute to the news agenda. We regularly see footage on news programmes that has been captured on a mobile phone. The internet and these platforms are giving the public a voice. This can have a damaging effect on an organisation, as there is no control over what is being put out there. This also links to transparency.

Porosity can often cause problems within organisations. Information can be easily traced, leaked and passed to the wrong hands with the internet. Carelessness can produce negative results and a typical situation is email sharing between employees. Information may seem to be passed between two people without interference, however, organisations are often tracking what is being said. It is generally down to the individuals morals to uphold confidentiality and abide by office rules.

Richness is something that is always improving with the internet, much like reach. Online content can be so detailed and in mass amounts that we can find just about anything on the internet and with over two billion connected users worldwide, it has an unimaginable reach. This also links to the other three elements as the obvious size of the internet can provide issues for an organisation. As mentioned before, information is so readily available that someone will find it and it will spread, so an organisation needs to make sure this information is good information. Anything else can have damaging repercussions.

Not only does an organisation need to be aware of the platforms and channels being used by a variety of publics, but in knowing what influence they have on their reputation can only benefit in the long-term. It is clear from looking at the five elements, that an organisation that is truly ethical and honest can be successful in online public relations.

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