A Little Bit of This and That


Putting the Public Back in Public Relations – How the PR Industry Must Adapt to Changing Media

Posted in Book Review by albthisandthat on November 18, 2009
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Social media has drastically changed how people connect, stay in touch and share information with one another.  As interactive websites and user generated content flood the internet, businesses must find new ways of attracting and engaging consumers.  Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge is about the evolution of the public relations industry in the face of these new communications technologies. 

The underlying theme of the book is how to optimize the field of public relations through PR 2.0, a concept which Solis developed in the mid-1990s.  PR 2.0 is the applications of new Internet and other social media technologies to find, communicate to, and interact with your target audiences directly.  Solis and Breakenridge lay out their ideas on the value of PR 2.0 and the future of effective public relations strategies in five main sections of their book.  In the first section, they begin by comparing the old method of public relations – communicating “to” audiences rather than “with” audiences – versus the new, more responsive and interactive method of PR 2.0.  They continue by highlighting the new techniques that are important to the development of a successful PR 2.0 campaign, especially blogging, social media, and video.  Next, the authors give guidance on how public relations professionals can achieve brand maximization in the often overwhelming sea of new media opportunities. They conclude their book by offering some essential ground rules for PR 2.0 given how informal Internet has made public relations messaging in today’s digital age, and outline a path for the future of PR in the 3.0+ world. 

Solis and Breakenridge have clearly thought out what it means to be effective in 21st century public relations, and how any professional can take the ever-evolving concepts of PR 2.0 and use them to gain the critical feedback necessary to get your message out in the digital world.  As they note, technology is constantly advancing and companies and public relations professionals will always be in a struggle to adapt and keep pace.  A shift to social media based PR requires a shift in mindset from the old approach of controlling the message to a new paradigm of being engaged in the community, discussing and interacting with the audience you are ultimately trying to influence to gain valuable feedback.  One telling anecdote was when Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired and author of The Long Tail, got so frustrated with the barrage of bad public relations professionals that he called them out on his blog for being lazy and response only to find that out other public relations professionals, rather than being defensive, actually agreed that the whole industry needed to better in the digital age.  That seemed to me to be conclusive evidence of the authors’ point that the optimal way of doing PR 2.0 is communication with people, not at people.

The strategies and ideals of PR 2.0 appear to have particular relevance to a client like the Junior League of Washington.  One of the JLW’s key strengths is that it is a member community based on volunteerism, and maximizing how it communicates its goals and events with existing and potential new members is essential to JLW’s growth and success.  Since the JLW’s volunteers already self-selected, improving communications so that they incorporate the feedback of JLW’s target audience will only encourage existing members to get more involved and engaged, while also producing the positive word of mouth for new applicants to the JLW’s ranks. 

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