|Events online are similar to events
used in traditional public relations. They help communicate an organization's message
through a range of activities. However, online events do not need rooms, hotels, air
travel, exhibit construction and rental cars.
For the most part, online events do not substitute for live, on-site events. They complement live events and extend their reach. When a company launches a new product, for example, an online event extends beyond traditional print and electronic news media in one geographic locale. Online events include:
Spokesperson tours: Publicists have discovered commercial online services, such as America OnLine, as fertile media for the electronic spokesperson tour. Weekly, in publications like USA Today, one finds calendars of spokespersons who will be online the next week. Often these are celebrities and authors, but they include physicians, government officials and executives who take questions from the online community.
Promotions: Online promotions are entrenched in some businesses, particularly the film industry. It is common to see Web sites promoting a forthcoming film. Such sites have games, contests, interviews with stars and discussions of how the film was made. Other consumer products emulate the film industry.
"Live" online meetings: Online lets participants outside of a geographic location to participate in meetings. Online technologies include video, sound and written responses. "Whiteboarding," a technology that lets a person write on a surface in one location and reproduce the writing in another location, is becoming common.
Online press conferences: Similar to spokesperson tours. Press conferences let company officials extend their geographic reach beyond the room where a press conference is held.
Product launches: Online is useful for product launches because it reaches both a broad group of users and specific, targeted groups with direct interest in a product or service.
Online events require planning. One has to "turn out" a crowd online just as much as with a live, on-site event. If you have a product or service that you think might benefit from an online event, test it. Be sure to make the same efforts to notify online audiences of the event that you would with any other audience.
What you can do online is different from a live, on-site event. You need to calculate your online event against the technology of the attending audience. It does little good to offer video when few can handle it or sound files when no one is prepared to download them.
The first step of an online event is research to determine the practicality of doing one. The second step is to determine specific communications objectives you expect to achieve online event and then, to plan and implement accordingly.
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