The often edgy and opinionated perspectives and insights of some of the world’s leading public relations experts and PR bloggers will soon be available on a 2011 Public relations and managing reputation free report. The impact on issues management of social media, the building blocks of PR strategy (it’s not rocket science), why the teaching of theory in PR uni courses is essential and our industry’s dangerous, and often misguided, emphasis on Facebook are amongst the featured topics.

Strategic public relations insights

The report’s discussions baulk at mouthing status quo platitudes. The accepted is rejected. Plain sailing is spurned for the allure of stormy waters, where the risk is greater but the excitement heightened.

It will be a must-read for contemporary public relations practitioners who want to improve their skills, strategic capabilities and thinking; and for those who care about their profession. Stay switched on for its imminent launch, but in the meantime here is a sample of what to expect.

Issues management and social media

“The rise of social media has created untold new tools and channels for all public relations practitioners,” says Dr Tony Jaques. “But in the field of issue management it is having a dramatic impact not just on the day-to-day practice of the discipline, but is changing forever an organisation’s stakeholder relationships and the expectations of its stakeholders.

“The rise of social media is commonly described as creating a more level playing field between those with power and those affected by exercise of power. However a less recognised impact of social media is the way in which community expectation is changing, which has significant implications for the future of issue management.”

Public relations strategy

“Public relations is driven by strategy – comprised at its core by the who, what, when, where, why, how of communication and engagement – which is sometimes made to sound more complex than it actually is,” asserts Paul Roberts.

Paul says, “At the end of the day, what most people call public relations strategy can be boiled down to some very basic elements.” He calls these push and pull and contextualises his discussion around product launches and recalls.

“No one is going to care about your new product unless you make them care – push. When issuing a product recall your job is to communicate your company’s message in a much more reactive manner – pull.” Paul divides his explanation into…

  • messenger – The Who
  • message – The What
  • timing – The When
  • medium – The Where
  • rationale – The Why
  • logistics – The How.

The importance of teaching PR theory for PR professionalism, excellence and impact

“There is widespread if not universal agreement that education and training are important to advancing a field and helping it gain legitimacy and recognition as a profession,” says Professor Jim Macnamara, who leads the teaching of public relations at Australia’s leading PR-teaching university, University of Technology, Sydney. “But what is not agreed, and often controversial, is the balance between theory and practical skills.

“From my years in practice, I am sympathetic to these demands. But here’s where I am likely to stir up debate: I argue that we need to teach MORE THEORY.

Professor Macnamara extrapolates his thoughts based on five key themes:

  • It is a myth the PR academia is disconnected to practice and/or has no experience in it
  • The importance of developing and teaching theory as well as practical skills and integrating theory with practice
  • Devising communication strategy, with its attendant outcome-delivery tactical manifestations, requires depth of knowledge
  • Critical thinking helps produce alternative, positive and proactive approaches. It is not an exercise in negativity or destructive approaches
  • Challenging norms is facilitated by the teaching of theory, with positive implications for both the PR profession and engaging in, “wider debates and discussions of society.”

Derailing the dependence on Facebook for professional marcomms

“Facebook is nothing more than a media channel, albeit with a range of accompanying problems and issues that are both constructive as well as destructive,” says Dwight Whitney. “It is fun, entertaining and superficially interactive, which is why some people think of it as the new way to communicate versus being a channel for that action.

“The problem,” emphasises Dwight, is…“that these abbreviated versions of the ‘real deal’ are, in fact, creating people who now know of no other means of interaction.

“As communicators, we have a duty of care and obligation to understand the nature of this social media beast. Rather than being dewy-eyed cargo cultists, it behooves us instead to take a critical look at the pros and cons of this phenomenon.”

Dwight talks about how Facebook is bringing out the worst in some people (e.g. bullying) and that, “… intimacy and emotions are being replaced with a mega mall concept of friendship where ‘more is better’ and immaculate consumption replaces genuine connections.”

Ten PR professionals and academics from around the world (plus, ah, me…) are contributing to this report. What did you think about the views expressed in this post? Does there exist a healthy level of reflection within public relations around the world – on a strategic level, in the way we utilise tactical options such as Facebook and public relations status in the areas of business and society? What PR-relevant thought is keeping you up at night?

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