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How is rich-media used in Public Relations?

“Rich Media” is “Typically, a type of advertisement technology such as a web site or banner ads that are more advanced than standard GIF animation. Rich media banners include: Flash, Shockwave, streaming video, Real Audio/Video, pull-down menus, search boxes, applets that allow for interactivity, and other types of special effects. Rich media offers an enhanced experience relative to older, mainstream formats” www.allaboutjazz.com

Public relations firms have primarily used rich media as a tool for sales and marketing initiatives such as streaming emails, on-line ads and flash animation. These strategies have been very successful.  As a business communication vehicle, rich media can engage, entertain and inform audiences faster and far more effectively than any other type of communication. (P. Tierney, 2003). 

Below is an example found on youtube. This mobile ad leverages interactive rich media advertising to promote the recent film “True Blood”

“Studies have shown that individuals only retain 10% of information they read,  20% of the information they hear, but 50% of the information they see and hear” (D.G Treichler Research, 1967). 

The rapidly increasing penetration of the internet into people’s homes, (79% of US Internet homes by 2008) business’s (80% of Global 2000 companies by 2006) and lives (P. King December, 2002).

Using these statistics means that professionals working in the P.R industry using forms of rich media when communicating can enable the industry to take advantage of the power of the internet’s reach and interactivity via methods like video, voice and flash animation in driving purchase intent, brand favorability, aided brand awareness and even message association, it also serves to deepen customer connection and ultimately, the online experience.

Online initiatives and campaigns that incorporate rich media are more likely to enhance their increase customer retention and ultimately convert to potential revenue.  Through programs like Adobe Atlas, rich media is able to be tracked and measured in terms of success rates with regards to online campaigning and advertising. 

Rich media can be useful by producing live webcasts for high-impact customer events with large audiences including content with streaming audio, streaming video, presentations, live Q&A sessions, and polling questions. For example, reality television programs like “Big Brother” used extensive forms of rich media through the use of voting polls, mobile updates of current activity, 24 hour online streaming and to some extent download online contestant biographies.

Crisis communication— Japan Disaster, a crisis such as this, time is of the essence. Business executives and governments  know they’ve got to get the right information to the right people as quickly as possible to restore consumer confidence. Certainly, it can be done with text. But the importance of seeing and hearing a company’s leader during trying times simply can’t be underestimated. Integrating a reliable enterprise media network enables companies to rapidly respond to crises with targeted rich media communication, and also lets them protect their most important asset—their reputation.  (P. Tierney, 2003)

The global interactive games industry is an emerging area of new media. It is sometimes referred to as the new “super medium”. It is said to be at the forefront of many of the most significant innovations in new media (Flew & Humphries). The significance of interactive games to new media development extends substantially beyond their current role. The Economist observed:

“Games are widely used as education tools, not just for pilots, soldiers and surgeons, but also in schools and businesses… Anyone who has learned to play a handful of games can generally figure out how to operate almost any high-tec device. Games require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies and learn the rules of the in-game world through trial and error. Gamers must also be able to juggle several different tasks, evaluate risks and make quick decisions… Playing games, is thus, an ideal form of preparation for the workplace of the 21st Century, as some forward thinking firms are already starting to realise”.

The Interactive gaming industry  presents the opportunity for PR professionals  to re-think the way they’re currently communicating with customers, prospects, partners and employees as McKinsey & Company found in a recent report.

The significance of rich media as an emerging industry, in particular interactive gaming is most certainly a field that needs to be seriously assessed and incorporated within businesses practices to compliment traditional P.R communication. Dr. Humopanieni described the virtual activity as a “very natural way of exploring what is around you”.

Virtual practices in an industry could be of benefit in circumstances like product trial, product testing and research and even audience engagement. Employee training policies and practices could incorporate this into staff and business development strategies.

However, trying to successfully forecast the impacts that this trend could bring upon industry will take time and continued research. As  Peter Tierney makes mention his article in back in the early 2000’s, “we have been given the building blocks of technology and have started to become more widely available. It is now into the hands of the industry to incorporate strategies to adopt the emerging trend and take full advantage of its potential and innovative capabilities.




P. Tierney (2003). Econtent leadership series (web)

T. Flew 2008,  New Media: An introduction 3rd edition. Oxford Press

The Economist online magazine

P. King (2002). Residential Broadband Modems and Gateways: Global Market Forecast—Strategy Analytics (Web).


CollectBook and Facial Intelligence

Collective Intelligence refers to the capacity of networked ICT’s to exponentially enhance the collective pool of social knowledge by simultaneously expanding the extent of human interactions enabled by communications networks that can generate new knowledge and the greatly enhanced capacity to codify, store and retrieve such knowledge through collective access to networked databases. (Levy, 1997)

Networks and Collective Intelligence are fundamental to the public relations industry to get a message to reach critical mass. Public relations professionals rely on networks of all forms to encourage interaction from their audience. “CI enhances the production of social knowledge by expanding the interactions through communication networks that generate new knowledge and enhance the ability to retrieve and store through collective access to networked databases”. (Lecture notes)

 For a public relations professional, collective intelligence creates a unified understanding of a message amongst its audience, which in turn is crucial  for the dissemination of knowledge.

Using social networks in public relations campaigns  “Network campaigns allow a diverse grouping of organisations and individuals to participate through commitment to a shared purpose, while remaining autonomous individual agents. In this way it is possible to gain additional leverage over decision making bodies through the ‘multiplier effect’ of a coherent message and more efficient deployment of resources and effort, while maintaining the flexibility and energy that more bureaucratic forms of co-ordination tend to squander”. Miller (2004:208)

Public relations professionals can use the collective intelligence concept to make better decisions, it can provide a variety of viewpoints that can deter self serving-bias. User engagement powers pooled knowledge. Companies and products expand through word of mouth.

The growing significance of networks within public relations has been pursued by a societal shift in usage behaviors of new media and advancements in technology . For example , if a P.R professional needs to reach a critical mass, they could use facebook as a means to reach and tap into different groups of collective intelligence to promote their business/product/brands/services etc.

Facebook  is a world-wide social network used my billions of individuals and businesses to connect, socialize, network and advertise.  Due to its viral nature and ability to view all social networking, people can see the activity of friends and friends of friends, and are then able to access information and links to other people, companies, blog spots etc.  This can be done by simply following links to different network locations, adding friends and using “I like” applications to be a part of new communities and collective intelligence groups. 

A small business can utilize facebook as a way to not only maintain their current clientele but by integrating other business links to their pages so that more customers can see what other activities are available or progressing. This then creates an avenue into other networks where they can access more customers who may not be directly involved with them.  Networks like facebook  have the opportunity to generate instant recognition and awareness of a product, service or business networks.

Social networks like facebook enable sharing information more effectively for business groups than “word of mouth” it is also cost a effective tool.

Taking advantage of a collective Intelligence can be a very impactful and useful in communication for Public Relations professionals, however, there is a very big concern for a loss of control. Unwanted and undesirable outcomes can have a drastically damaging effect on a company or brand. “The collective makes a decision that could harm the company revealing flaws.” ( Bonabeau, 2009).

Unpredictability can also be the cause of chaos for an organisation and the snowballing effect by using social networks and the collective intelligence that is attached with it. An opinion might gain momentum and this can lead to negative outcomes.


Eric Bonabeau,(May 2009), Decisions, MIT Sloan management, The power of collective intelligence.

T. Flew (2008), New Media, an introduction 3rd edition, Oxford Press.

Jeffery Brand, Lecture notes 2011


Get a SECOND Life!

Diffusion of innovation theory seeks to explain the spread of new ideas. First developed in the early 1950s. Rogers proposed 4 main elements that influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation, communication channels, time, and a social system. That is, diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. If the innovation is adopted, it spreads via various communication channels. During communication, the idea is evaluated and perceptions of the innovation, influence the diffusion. The process occurs over time. Finally, social systems determine diffusion, norms on diffusion, roles of opinion leaders and change agents, types of innovation decisions, and innovation consequences. Below is a model based on Rogers theory.

MODEL: Diffusion of Innovations

It seems as though virtual worlds like Second Life may have opened the door for the Public Relations industry and possibly changed the way P.R professionals will continue to do business. Second Life has taken the traditional community buliding to another level. This virtual world attempts to connect people in a three dimensional framework, Second Life has allowed global PR agency and award winner of the 2006 Innovation of the year by PR Week, Text 100, to work with clients on how the online community may benefit their businesses by facilitating virtual press conferences or new ways of demonstrating products to employees or customers. The Second Life office also provides benefits to the Text 100 staff, such as allowing them to view training sessions within the virtual world, yet it hasn’t recieved the same mainstream attention as other social media phenomena, like blogs.
Text 100 became the first public relations consultancy to establish a presence inside Second Life, a rapidly growing virtual world in which people can interact, create, educate, play, and work in a 3-D environment. In the process, Text 100 it knew it would not only benefit its clients, but also be recognized as an innovator in the space.
Text 100 R&D team worked to research user growth, social demographic, and economy, they found that it offered the best business opportunity in a refreshing and innovative way; in 2007, the community boasted some 900,000 members, who contributed to an economy totaling the equivalent of $10 millionUS a month. Text 100 has a relative advantage of innovative communication tools for the profession.  

Using carefully targeted communication channels, they created an open and transparent design that would reflect the firm’s core values. This was done by creating a three-minute video illustrating the PR potential of virtual worlds, which was placed on its agency blog and on YouTube.

The video has been viewed more than 3,500 times on that site. Not quite reaching critical mass at this stage which was in 2007.

The complexity of this virtual world is very minimal in terms of understanding online communities and how they can improve business growth and development, especially within the communications industries. Second Life is able to provide its users with enormous interactive capablities which is what makes this concept so appealing to its audiences, therefor enhancing the trialability and observibility.

It must be noted that there is an importance placed upon compatibility; showing that connections between virtual and physical PR activities must be realised in future studies. However, trialability is the attribute most positively correlated with virtual-PR adoption. As a result more time and opportunities should be extended to practitioners in order to trial these activities in a digital environment, or opportunities should be taken as they arise. In order to foster adoption it is important for practitioners to test and try out new technological advances to build comfort.

 “We view virtual worlds as the next stage in the evolution of social media like blogs, wikis, social networks and other online forums,” said Georg Kolb, EVP, and leader of the social media practice at Text 100.  “Having a presence in Second Life will enable us to explore, innovate, educate and collaborate on a next generation communications platform.”

 “The evolution of Second Life – and its community of ‘digital natives’ – provides an intriguing insight into how public relations will change in the next few years. I don’t think any of us can be sure where this revolution is going to take communications but I do know that I want Text 100 to participate in that change.”

In a time when the PR industry is struggling with all of the new ways to reach audiences, many firms will boast of their experience with new and social media. By being the first PR agency to open a virtual office in Second Life, Text 100 successfully positioned itself as an innovator.


Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.

Kitchen. J. P.(2010).Online Public Relations: The adoption process and innovation challenge, a Greek example. Sep 2010. http://www.prconversations.com/index.php/2010/11/online-public-relations-the-adoption-process-and-innovation-challenge-a-greek-example/

PRWeek.(2011). Retrieved MarchPRWeek Awards innovation of the year. (March2010).http://www.prweekus.com/prweek-awards–pr-innovation-of-the-year/article/152940/

Youtube.Text 100: Branding building in Second Life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCHoXnUOqsU

Text100. (2008). http://www.text100.com/

Secondlife.(1999). http://secondlife.com/