Defining Digital Media

In module one, you read about the challenges of defining ethics. There are many theories and processes that are related to ethics in the public relations profession that inform campaigns, messages and strategies. Ultimately, ethics involves looking at any situation from multiple-angles and determining the best course of action by evaluation options against an ethical code of conduct.

Like ethics, “digital media” is also challenging to conceptually define. Many scholars have struggled and debated the scope of digital media. Some scholars define digital media by platforms, such as Google, Facebook or Amazon. Platforms are the online spaces where users can engage (purchase, share, or communicate) with created content. Other scholarship defines digital media by the technology that supports it. This includes digital video, imagery, games, web pages, social media, databases, mp3s and audio.

In public relations, it is easier to use a definition that integrates both the platforms as well as technology. In our field, digital media are platforms, sites or spaces of multi-directional, instantaneous communication.

Multi-Directional Communication

Multi-directional refers to the ability of users to communicate with other users, including members of the organization. For example, on Facebook, you can comment on a friend’s status, and your friend or other users can comment back. The multi-directional capabilities of digital media are an advantage for public relations practitioners. Digital media allow a public relations team to directly engage users even if they are separated by great physical distances. In addition, a team can respond directly to users who have complaints or concerns, thus managing the brand’s reputation.

Instantaneous Communication

Instantaneous communication refers to the ability of digital media to share content quickly or rapidly through its platform. For example, you can post a picture on Instagram to your profile in a matter of seconds. This speed allows for the rapid dissemination of information, which has both positive and negative implications for public relations. It means that untrue rumors can spread quickly about a brand through digital media, making it difficult for a public relations team to manage or stop false information. However, the instantaneous nature of digital media also allows the same team to post a correction or address the rumors quickly. The instantaneous nature of digital media requires that public relations practitioners are constantly monitoring and managing their organization’s digital reputation.

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