Social networking sites like Twitter and new media channels such as blogs are changing public relations by enabling companies to get their messages out and react to events in near real-time, an industry figure has claimed.

PR specialist Ross Furlong told there is "a lot of interest and demand" from businesses regarding the best use of online channels and in particular social networking sites.

He said blogs have quickly established themselves as a good way to communicate with customers while also providing a boost to search engine optimisation.

Mr Furlong added that the rapid growth of the online audience can also present firms with a number of PR challenges – but embracing social media gives them a way of controlling the message.

"Eventually businesses will realise they need online PR as well as traditional PR because they have to have those controls in place," he added.

Net Visible’s Mick Thorburn recently told UTalkMarketing that with around half of the UK’s online population searching for local goods and services on the web, online PR is also becoming an increasingly important channel for attracting new customers.

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