n Communicatio : South African Journal of Communication Theory and Research - On-line public relations : towards an integrated theoretical model : organisational, marketing and management communication : research article

Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0250-0167



Much has been said about the so-called information superhighway. Organisations are realising that a whole new world can be created on-line: more and more organisations, and individuals, are entering this superhighway at an incredible rate. Ironically, most people do not have a clue what the information superhighway really is, which is, for example, evident in the 1993 advertisement of the telecommunication giant, Pacific Bell, which claimed that: `While others talk about the information superhighway, we're actually building it', but only launched their consumer Internet access service in 1996. In spite of widespread ignorance, the exponential growth of the Internet provides public relations practitioners with constantly expanding on-line public relations resources and the opportunity to use these online systems to create or enhance the images of organisations in the market place. <br>Without theory, the field of on-line public relations has no framework for understanding, organising and integrating the many activities and purposes of online public relations. Therefore online public relations needs a body of knowledge grounded in theory. It is clear that the shift is away from mass communication towards dialogical or interactional communication. In order to understand the theory of on-line public relations, it is important to systemise it in terms of a theoretical approach. This leads to the main aim of this article, which is to propose a theoretical model, the On-line Public Relations (OPR) model, to provide a suitable framework for explaining the on-line public relations process, and if applied in the development of on-line public relations plans or strategies, it can maintain its utility as a framework for the analysis thereof. <br>Based on a qualitative approach, this article attempts to theoretically explore, describe, interpret and conceptualise the concept on-line public relations, with specific reference to the development of on-line public relations in South Africa, the shift from traditional paradigms to new on-line trends and the integration of on-line public relations with other communication processes. Particular reference is made to the theoretical foundations of on-line public relations, and it is argued that at the root of on-line public relations, as a framework for explaining it, lies the need for an integrated theoretical approach. In the last section, a new OPR model is proposed, and a brief discussion of the elements of the model, the conceptual foundation of on-line information and information overload is presented.

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