‘All PR is Online’ White Paper
Keene Communications recently published a White Paper featuring the abstract for the forthcoming third edition of Online Public Relations; the hugely popular book by Professor David Phillips FCIPR and Philip Young. Having taken the time to digest the key arguments, I think it’s fair to say this was more an abstract than a White Paper, but that’s beside the point.
The foreword by Simon Quarendon, MD of Keene tees things up by stating that ‘big data’, ‘the semantic web’ and the ‘internet of things’ are not typically associated with public relations (PR), but this is going to change. Readers of SWT, will know how intrigued I am with big data and the potential it has to transform the way we plan communications activity – and much, much more besides, so I was delighted when Michael White got in touch.
The section which first caught my attention discussed how mobile phones have evolved from simple devices used to make calls and send texts, to powerful computers which let us search for information, take photos and monitor our health, as well as pay for goods and services. Phillips and Young make the important point that these changes are happening too quickly for many communication practitioners, and dare I say it, academics too.
This made me reflect upon my time as a PR student between 2004-08, a period where the Internet was just beginning to transform the way we communicate. Having worked in an academic setting after graduation, I appreciate just how difficult it is for universities to create a syllabus based on an area that is changing so rapidly.
But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it should not be attempted. Adapting and dealing with change is both inevitable and constant. Indeed, the key theme emerging from the abstract is that the industry must embrace change.
From my experience in industry and academia I have come across two types of people; those which are willing to adapt and learn new skills, and those which are not. As a result of this I see PR becoming something of a two-tier industry, with those that pedal tactical publicity in tier-one and tier-two being characterised by a data-driven and strategic approach with digital at its core. If the White Paper is anything to go by, the book will tell us all about why you should be tier-two.
The abstract also focuses on established communication models and looks at mass communication vs. micro communication, as well as drawing attention to the significant grey area in-between. I think this area warrants further investigation, particularly as we’ve now entered the era of what I’d describe as one-to-one-to-many communication e.g. when an organisation responds publicly to an individual online, they are initially responding one-to-one, but the message may be seen by the many, who in turn may comment.
Throughout the article the authors alludes to what my former employer, Edelman Digital term ‘Social Intelligence Auditing’. In simpler terms, there’s a huge volume of data ready to be mined to help you make better choices and it would be remiss to overlook it.
The ‘PR agencies must adapt or die’ argument is nothing new, but what I like about the abstract is that it promises to explore the areas of big data, the semantic web and internet of things, from a PR, rather than technological or IT perspective.
I’m a firm believer that news skills are required for the modern day PR and digital has to be right at the heart. What I like about Professor David Phillips and Philip Young’s previous work is that they are willing to go out on a limb and say how they think the future will look and what it means for our industry. Whilst I don’t agree with everything the pair have written, they deserve praise for at least starting the conversation.
The White Paper offers a fascinating glimpse into how the Internet could transform the way public relations activity is undertaken in the future – and in doing so, raises many important questions. As an industry are we equipped to deal with this change? What new skills need to be developed? Will this broaden the scope of PR? I’m hopeful the book will offer some much needed answers.