|Politicians are well-versed in online
public relations, and Web pages abound at election time. More importantly, online has
become a way for federal, state and local communities to keep citizens up-to-date on
government reports, activities, services and pending legislation. This means that public
relations/public affairs professionals should use online to track and influence
governmental and community activities. Online makes the following activities easier:
Event tracking/issues monitoring: Monitoring answers questions as varied as what a school board did last night, whether a bill was reported out of committee and local activities for senior citizens. Online saves public affairs and community relations professionals hours of time in tracking critical issues.
Image building/online community goodwill: There is plenty of opportunity for community relations online beginning with wiring local communities and schools for the Internet through sponsoring online activities that benefit your organization's image.
Issues discussion and client positions: Online is a repository for candidates' position papers, speeches and news/schedules of local campaign appearances. Online can serve as a coordinating knowledge base for campaign workers and a means to maintain contact with them although they are dispersed.
Newsletters/newsgroup/listservs or separate site to promote client position or issue: Online is an active arena where political issues and candidates are discussed, sometimes politely. Candidates know that it is as easy to publish a newsletter online as it is to print and mail it. Online allows immediate news coverage that traditional newsletters cannot handle, and online serves as a media source for information and story ideas.
Lobbying via e-mail to newsgroups to encourage response to governing bodies. Grassroots lobbying online existed even before the World Wide Web was invented. In the mid-1980s, French university students coordinated a national strike through the country's online system called Minitel. Groups from mainstream political parties to fringe activists are present online worldwide.
If you are in public affairs or community relations, you are using online public relations -- or you should be. The basic online activity is monitoring. You should have monitoring programs for locations where governments have Web pages or electronic bulletin boards.
Monitoring should include not only what is being said, but analysis of how it might affect your organization and what you should do about it. If you have active community relations efforts, online should be a component that you are investigating as a way of reaching influential citizens and a way of extending your services to local citizens. Click here for key public affairs resources.
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