NEW YORK: Small and mid-sized PR firms spend twice as much time on the Net as employees of large firms, despite the fact that smaller firms are less likely to have a Web presence, according to a new research study published by the PRSA's Counselor's Academy.
Entitled Uses of the Internet by Public Relations Firms, the study examined Internet use by PR firms, the principal applications for the Net, the involvement of PR firms in developing their own web sites and the provision of web site services for clients.
Developed and conducted by Don Bates, managing director of NY-based Media Distribution Services, and Paul Warren, a Clearwater, FL-based PR counselor, the study found that small and mid-sized firms spend between one and two hours daily on the Internet. Large firms (100+ employees) average about an hour a day of Internet time per employee.
'I think it's because small agencies are looking for creative and less expensive ways to get a leg up,' Bates said. 'The little guy doesn't have the money so he has to create his own approaches with limited resources. They don't have specialists to handle it.'
All the responding large PR firms had their own web site for self-promotion, while 69% of mid-sized (25 to 100 employees) firms and 38% of small firms had one.
When asked about the apparent paradox of smaller firms spending more time on the Internet yet not having a web site, Warren said: 'It's partially a matter of cost but more a matter of time. Because they spend a lot of time on the Web, they know what a good Web resource should look like but they don't trust the local Web design firm. It becomes more trouble than it's worth.'
Of the responding small and mid-sized firms, 40% have dedicated Web servers for their sites, while for large firms the figure is 85%. Warren said he was pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of computer networks at mid-size firms.
Not surprisingly, the study also found that e-mail and research are the two most popular applications among PR professionals. Other applications include recruiting new employees, transmitting graphics/artwork, buying media lists and participating in chat rooms.
'The basic premise is that people tend to take a relatively unsophisticated approach (to the Web),' Warren told PRWeek. 'There's a whole lot more the Web can be used for - newsgroups, electronic media centers - but unfortunately that area doesn't get a lot of attention.'
Bates said he expects follow-up studies to take a case study approach to find exactly which tactics work and which do not.