Thursday, December 08, 2005

Glittering Opportunity for PR

In listening to Hobson and Holtz discussing the future of PR last Sunday, we heard a classic example of expertise trying to think through changes taking place in society.

It was interesting, valuable and a good listen. I was also gratified to be included in this podcast. Like a lot of PR this is grounded in practice, and advanced practice at that. This is not empirical research and, with the greatest of respect to messrs Hobson and Holz, showed that we have to create a better research base to give practitioners the authority among dominant coalitions.

It was a surprise to find that Brendon Hodgson was given so much air time. This is incomplete thinking. In addition, they were critical of the Hodgson timescale. They should know that agencies take a very long time to get the message and are right to point out the pacing of the predictions.

But back to the main issues.

First we need to identify what an organisation is. The triangle (empirical/semantic) structure of an organisation is not representative of the reality. The dominant coalition, as we know it morphs and changes.

We all have experience of the decisions in companies being driven from a range of internal groups and this influence does affect the person we recognise as a CEO who is the focus for such power shifts.

Organisations have presence in cultures. For example in the culture of computing technology organisations like IBM and Microsoft have a powerful influence on the culture.

As people in cultures gain a voice, they change the cultural landscape which in turn has an effect on the organisations whose being is dependent on the culture.

We can test this hypothesis using media coverage as a metaphorical representation of culture. In this coverage there are concepts encompassing a range of cultures. But, if you look at the concepts that apply to, say, Madonna, there are few in common with, say, banking. These are two separate cultures.

Today, with wider communication, values can be created through a broad interaction of many people. Stalin can no longer rule. If ever there was evidence for this today, modern day China is an example. These cultural values are very importnat if we seek to engage with publics.

This means we need to be competent with the tools of communication and Dan York's contribution was absolutely right. There is some experience in how to manage this.

In summary, the podcast suggested:

Whether or not called public relations, new, more advanced yet practical and cost effective methodologies are emerging and are long overdue. They are knowledge based. Within the existing profession we can embrace them. They will continue to emerge because there is massive demand for public relations development. It will be a painful process but most of what is lost can be brought back and much is new and we do not have to give it away.

While nearly every other form of commercial activity has changed beyond recognition, the practice of public relations has remained almost static. Press release writing, press list building, issuing of press releases and terrestrial event management is still the bigger part of PR practice. It cannot long remain this way.

PR practitioners have a glittering opportunity if members seek knowledge, are more professional and get organised to compete. There is yet time to catch up but I fear there is not the will.

I can but agree. They were my words to the CIPR annual conference in 1995.

Then I was projecting into the future today I am frustrated that so few of my PR Colleagues still don't understand a decade later.

Picture: By

John Brown  "Being alone is being away from those who understand you."