The arrival of Web3 has ushered in a new wave of interesting trends and practices. These trends comprising new technologies have significantly impacted public relations (PR), forcing brands to opt for newer and more efficient strategies to create a lasting and profitable relationship with the public and consumers.
Public relations help brands build stronger relationships with their audiences. Usually, one of the elements that contributes to the success of a brand's product is the type of relationship that exists with its users. In some cases, a mere buyer-seller relationship is what we see.
However, this could heavily influence how a product or service from the brand is perceived.
Over the years, public relations have been influenced by the transition between different phases of the Internet. First off, we had Web1.0, a version of the Internet that was non-interactive. Users can only read static pages (comprising text and graphics) and nothing more. Thus, brands couldn't establish an interactive relationship with their audiences. Interaction has defined the tools and strategies used for PR in Web2 and Web3.
Public relations captures two major actors— a business and its customer base. During Web1, public relations tended towards a brand crafting a positive image about itself without considering public opinion.
However, the growth in PR has been massive, leading to the inclusion of other narratives. Thus, we now see companies striving to strengthen relationships with their customer base. As a result, public relations has gone beyond the usual seller/buyer interaction.
Web1.0 might have been restrictive, but web2 introduced numerous tools now employed by brands and organizations for public relations campaigns. More importantly, public relations became interactive under Web2.
Web2 has earned a reputation as the internet era that marked the emergence of new media technologies which supported interaction. Unlike web1.0, which was mostly dominated by traditional media, Web 2 has allowed more user participation, ensuring that brands' audiences can be more involved. Thus, public relations has grown from being solely brand-oriented to user-oriented.
Web 1.0 PR is characterized by content hosted on web servers managed by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Web content for Web 1.0 PR revolved around a one-way communication structure, with companies being the primary focus. For example, companies wrote press releases and email newsletters directed at presenting their brands in a positive light without regard for the opinions of consumers.
This allowed brands to dictate the content they wanted their audience to see and read while they tried to gain publicity and credibility. Public relations has greatly benefited from the growth of the Web, providing a wide range of tools. These tools allow them to reach the public, regardless of geography and time boundaries, while encouraging real dialog and exchange of ideas.
Tools such as blogs, web pages, emails, surveys, and social networks were ushered in by Web2 and are currently dominating the PR sector. Meanwhile, all of these tools were missing in Web 1 except for web pages (which were still restrictive).
The modern business environment has become competitive as firms try to "out-market" one another to retain significant market share. Every industry is witnessing an influx of firms intent on building global businesses. Given the fierce competition, brands often have to adopt PR strategies to gain publicity and capture their consumers' varying needs.
Successfully achieving these is one of the steps to retaining a large market share for their products or services.
Public relations in Web2 has earned the appellation PR 2.0, given the impact transition to the second Web has had. As mentioned earlier, one of the hallmarks of having defined Web2 PR is interaction.
Tools like content management systems (an example of this is Wiki) now allow users to add, delete or edit content. Since Web 2 is also known as the participatory Web, companies now acknowledge the importance of user participation in their PR and marketing campaigns.
Kent & Taylor highlighted the importance of dialog in relationship building, cited as the result of an effective PR. One of the media companies employed to facilitate user participation is dialog, which is becoming possible through social network platforms where thousands of brands compete to be visible.
Public relations in Web3 are influenced by an emerging era of the Internet, which improves existing technologies while introducing new narratives.
According to Qigongzi, web3 is an internet era of data-driven human-computer information dissemination and interaction. One narrative that is popular in Web3 is decentralization. As in Web 2, new PR strategies are starting to evolve in the new era, leaving businesses with no choice but to adapt.
Evolving with PR trends - although without losing sight of the company's vision— is one of the ways enterprises stay relevant in their respective industries.
Web3 has allowed for more user participation from a decentralized perspective.
In addition, Web3 PR seeks to examine trends and innovations to enhance user experience. In this way, the focus shifts to a consumer-centric approach, but the aim remains the same— developing credibility and brand recognition among the public.
The web evolution has sparked certain patterns that businesses should not ignore regarding information dissemination. Failing to acknowledge these patterns poses failure risks to their PR campaigns. They include:
In this Internet era, audiences face information overload, which has led them to spend less time on content than in the Web 1 and Web2 eras.
Thus, as a business, you want to ensure that you can capture their attention for as long as possible using short-form content. In some cases, images can do the trick without saying much.
Fast and multiple access to news is one of the fallouts of Web3's rise. Your audience is more likely to have access to different news sources than you can imagine. These include personal blogs and social forums like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook.
Your PR strategy must extend to these platforms to understand what is being said about your brand. While you may not be able to control the kind of content released on these platforms, having real-time (not bot-controlled) conversations with the public will drive recognition and credibility for your brand.
With the growing understanding of new technologies, it is now difficult to fool your audience with artificial interaction.
Web3 PR also highlights the importance of gaining your users' trust by prioritizing their experiences with your products and services. Qigongzi termed this experiential public relations communication.
Accordingly, companies can invite users to experience their products and services. However, experiential public relations is beyond the pre-order model some brands adopt for their products.
A quintessential example of experiential PR is actively seeking users' needs to design them into new products. A company's customer base can also partake in product trials, solidifying interaction between both parties.
This form of interaction will allow users to feel that a company respects their needs. In return, your company is rewarded with a loyal set of consumers that can help you acquire more consumers (including friends and families) through word–of–mouth marketing, termed the most effective marketing strategy.
Qigongzi advised that the era where money and control of communication channels influenced PR is no longer relevant. Thus, a business that refuses to adapt to new PR strategies will lose out to its competitors. Web 3 has watered down the overwhelming influence brands have had on Web1 and Web2. Users can now make the product and not otherwise. Qigongzi succinctly captured this when he noted, "In this era, no products and brands are irreplaceable, only users are irreplaceable.
In the era of oversupply of products, brands must please users, not control them." Drawing from this, Web3 PR is more people-oriented than Web1 and Web2 PR.
Set up an active social media image where they interact with users, understand their needs, and position themselves as key opinion leaders (KOL) in their respective industries.
Businesses can also incorporate Web3 narratives such as memes, NFTs, and influencers for better interaction. For example, Adidas and Nike have employed this strategy to build a strong relationship with their users.
Build trust first with your primary users and not influencers using a reliable information channel. Then, when the chips are down, including during a PR crisis, a customer base bound by the trust for the brand will serve as the first line of defense.
Companies can leverage controversial topics to promote their brands.
Blocking detractors from commenting on your Twitter page could trigger a negative effect. Your users will selflessly promote your brand in the face of positive news so long as trust is not lost. On the other hand, loyal users can help brands curtail the spread of negative information, making it a win-win situation.
Brands like GuerillaBuzz, Luna PR, and Coinbound have established themselves as authorities in the PR industry, which stems from the fact that they have a sound understanding of PR strategies, including what works and what doesn't.
The long-term benefits of PR to any brand are immeasurable. Treating PR with levity can affect the trust of users in a brand and by extension, lead to low conversion for its products or services.
Also, a Web 2 brand is not restricted from adopting PR strategies introduced by Web3. While Web3 trends are built on a decentralized framework, it is a small price to pay to establish a solid relationship with your customer base.