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Public Relations Expert Don Middleberg The Internet has revolutionized just about everything. Find out what it's done to change the world of public relations.

By Talicia A. Flint

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Winning PR in the Wired World If your idea of running apublic relations campaign means sending truckloads of pressreleases out to various news organizations, then it's time towake up and smell that stale office coffee. The digital age isrevolutionizing the way PR is done, and in short, papa's got abrand new bag. We spoke with Don Middleberg, chairman and CEO ofpublic relations agency Middleberg Euro and author of Winning PR in the Wired World, aboutwhat the changing face of public relations means to entrepreneurstoday. You stressthe importance of having a "well-oiled, highly resourcefulpublic relations machine." What does that look like in reallife?

Don Middleberg: The role ofpublic relations has changed from being a provider of pressreleases and photo-op type events to really being a marketingpartner where public relations firms are providing market researchand competitive image analysis. It can [now] include moreinteractive marketing, where whole divisions are set up to findways to get people to visit Web sites. PR agencies have evolvedfrom being press representatives doing some very elementary andbasic press work to being a very sophisticated part of themarketing process. [Entrepreneurs] should make sure their agencyhas broad capabilities that go way beyond just media placementwork.

"PRagencies have evolved from being press representatives doing somevery elementary and basic press work to being a very sophisticatedpart of the marketing process. [Entrepreneurs] should make suretheir agency has broad capabilities that go way beyond just mediaplacement work." Acompany's online image is an important concern these days. Whatdoes an entrepreneur need to do to be prepared to successfullycombat problems that could damage their company's image?

Middleberg: First, [you haveto] have a plan. That plan anticipates types of crises that mightcome around so that should they hit, you already [have] a way tomanage them. Second, monitor the news media. Monitor what'sgoing on on Web sites, chat groups, the digital space andbroadcasts. It's kind of like sending a scout out on an advancemission. It's having that kind of information, makingreasonable evaluations about that information and then acting on itquickly. One of the"four fast rules of communicating in the digital age" is"Buzz is everything." What is the significance of buzzand how can it contribute to a successful PR campaign?

Middleberg: Buzz is theability to get people to talk about your product or service in away that's independent of media relations or any other specialactivity. Buzz is very difficult to create, but once you have it,you know. It's associated with movies, new products, newtechnologies, and successful firms that have been able to build alot of anticipation and excitement about what's coming out. Youacknowledge the role the Internet plays and will continue to playin globalization. How will that affect public relations?

Middleberg: It's alreadyhaving a major impact. Clients-particularly those involved with thewired world-can easily promote themselves through a single Website, all across the world. So how that Web site is promoted, thetype of content you put on it and the kinds of press releases [yousend] out can now all be done in a single, one-shot operation thatimpacts people around the world. You're no longer operating ina particular county, city or state. If you're operating on theNet, you're operating on a global basis, so you'd betterget a PR firm that understands that. What aboutthe debate over using advertising vs. public relations?

Middleberg: There's nocontroversy in the wired world. Advertising hasn't worked,banner ads don't work, and ad agencies are going back totraditional media to promote digital companies. The winner, interms of the best form of communications, is clearly publicrelations, followed by some interactive messaging, e-mail programsand things of that sort. Public relations is designed for conveyingcontent as opposed to images, and the Net is about the quality ofthe content. If you have a business you want to promote online, goto the public relations agency first.

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