Thursday, June 11

Reinventing Public Relations: Edelman PR

You don't have to agree with Richard Edelman of Edleman PR, an independent global PR firm, to appreciate some of the finer points of the presentation delivered at Georgetown University. Social media has changed public relations and mass communication in ways that few people ever expected.

From Edelman's perspective, public relations is faced with the challenge to evolve from pitching to informing, control to credibility, from one-off stories to continuing conversations, from influencing elites to engaging a new cadre of influencers.

Yet, for some, in looking at these four points for the evolution of public relations, they might wonder where public relations took the red pill. Was it ever about the pitch? Were they ever in control of communication? Was the focus on one-off stories? And was public relations really a game of expanding influence? Was the public relations world so bleak or is that the tone to make a brave new world seem twice as bright and shiny?

There is probably too much content for the confines of a single post to address those questions. So it might be best to stick with just three.

What Was Public Relations?

Bill Sledzik, an associate professor at Kent State University (and one of the few people I know who has an aversion to online typos like I do, even our own), still reigns with one of the best sum-ups on what public relations might be, assuming it never became what Edelman suggests it is today.

The point is that Sledzik's post has become required reading for my students, specifically because none of the definitions presented include words like "pitch," "control," "influence," or "one-off stories."

Who Owns Social Media?

If there was ever a misnomer in communication, it's the constant question of who owns social media. Does public relations own it? Marketing? Advertising? Social media experts?

While I often share the idea of integrated communication because social media skill sets tend to pull from all communication-related disciplines, the less obvious answer is no one owns it beyond the people who participate.

Why Are Influencers Nouns?

While there is enough good in Edelman's presentation to encourage people to read it, there is plenty wrong too.

The best of it mirrors some recent research we completed. It demonstrated to one of our clients that engaged citizens are much more likely to promote the organization's message than are members of the media, despite the fact that the organization devotes more than 90 percent of its time to media relations.

The worst of it keeps reinforcing this notion that there are new influencers. I used to think so, and might use the term for simplicity on occasion. However, Edelman keeps missing that while anyone can have influence about a subject or within a network for a varied period of time, the bigger picture suggests there aren't any influencers. And even if there were influencers, that noun is seldom permanent.


Rich on 6/18/09, 9:01 AM said...

More words:

Interestingly enough, Edleman PR was part of the decision making process behind the Palm Pre going head to head with the iPhone. We had some thoughts about that here.


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